When a hurricane strikes, diseases know no borders
It is critical to enhance the public health emergency preparedness of the Caribbean, a region that is vulnerable to natural disasters and disease outbreaks. Hurricanes conjure up images of strong high-speed winds, non-stop torrential rain and intense flooding that can cause immediate destruction. There is, however, a silent threat that lurks behind these natural hazards: the risk of disease transmission — made all the worse when the storm hits health services hard.
Hurricanes can increase exposure to infectious diseases due to the flooded areas they leave in their wake, and in which mosquitoes like to breed. Climate change is expected to lead to rising temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, and an amplification of extreme weather events with implications for increasing the incidence of water-borne and vector-borne diseases. On top of this, severe weather events may result in damage to health facilities, making it harder to care for people in need and to manage the increased flow of patients…
Being prepared for disasters starts with learning from the past
The tsunami was one for the history books. A 9.1 magnitude earthquake had struck off the northern tip of Sumatra in Indonesia. Waves traveled across the Indian Ocean at more than 500 mph and hit 14 countries, including Thailand. On the shores of Phuket, locals and tourists alike followed the water outward as it receded, not knowing what was to come next.
When the water came back toward them, it was too late. On that day after Christmas in 2004, more than 5,000 people were killed in Thailand alone.
It is this type of destruction that Erik Johnson and Gisele Ragusa of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, along with Richard Christenson of the University of Connecticut, are exploring as part of their Pacific Rim Earthquake Engineering Mitigation Protective Technologies International Virtual Environment (PREEMPTIVE) projects. The PREEMPTIVE Advanced Studies Institute (ASI), sponsored by the National Science Foundation, integrates virtual learning, cross-cultural exchange and detailed seminars with practical, onsite experience…