Insights: IMPACT OF EARTHQUAKES ON HUMAN HEALTH

The world has witnessed many earthquakes since the past one year or so. Haiti, Chile, New Zealand and now the severe devastating earthquake in Japan have all resulted in massive  destruction of human lives and homes.Man has many technological advancements to his credit today.
The latest earthquake in Japan resulted in a Tsunami that led to even more damage (Net photo)
The latest earthquake in Japan resulted in a Tsunami that led to even more damage (Net photo)

The world has witnessed many earthquakes since the past one year or so. Haiti, Chile, New Zealand and now the severe devastating earthquake in Japan have all resulted in massive  destruction of human lives and homes.

Man has many technological advancements to his credit today.

Japan in particular has been way ahead in technology adapted to prevent damage from earth quake. In spite of this it could not protect itself totally from the fury of nature. Severe earth quake, followed by tsunami and the nuclear plant explosion have proved a deadly trio for people living there.

Earth quake is the sudden, severe outward movement of the earth which occurs due to sudden release of seismic energy from the inner core of the earth. Overall   damage depends on the severity of the earth quake.

Mass destruction of private and public property is always the result of moderate to severe earth quakes.

This is immediate and can be rebuilt, once things settle down.
But impact on human health caused due to earth quakes is more severe and long lasting and usually irreparable.
Immediately after the earth quake, human beings residing there suffer from injuries to various parts of the body.

This occurs due to falling of the rubble of buildings, cement, concrete, e.t.c. on the trapped men. Deaths occur due to grievous injuries, internal and external bleeding and choking.

Those who survive may become physically handicapped due to irreparable damage to the limbs, eyes, ears, e.t.c. Some people may be lucky to escape with no or minimal injuries.
Due to the earth quake, electricity, water and sanitation systems of any place are broken.

The magnitude of the damage makes early restoration of these services difficult because  rescue of human beings trapped in the debris becomes top priority of the rescue teams. Thus the   affected people face problem of power, hygiene and sanitation. Safe and potable drinking water becomes inaccessible.

The survivors are forced to live in crowded shelter places with no or minimal sanitary facilities. All these factors add up and cause break out of communicable water borne diseases like cholera, dysentery, protozoa infections, e.t.c.

Recent example is the outbreak of cholera in Haiti after the earth quake.
As people live in overcrowded conditions with no immediate facility for adequate cleaning or bathing, conditions like scabies and louse infestation sometimes occur in epidemic forms.
Living and sleeping outdoors, exposes people to mosquito bites making them vulnerable to mosquito borne diseases like malaria and filaria.

They become prone to other diseases also which are vector borne like rickettsial infections.
Most of the people leave their broken and even intact homes to live in potentially safe places. These abandoned homes become breeding grounds for rodents and wild cats.

The number of these pests rises rapidly whereas pest control measures are stalled due to the crisis. Sudden increase in number of rodents makes  the human population residing there more  prone to diseases like leptospirosis.
Post traumatic stress syndrome (P.T.S.S.) is the aftermath of such natural disasters.

Those who have suffered from a disaster of such magnitude or even witnessed it are unlikely to forget it in their life time. Many of these individuals suffer from frequent night mares, dryness of mouth, sweating, palpitations, sense of fear, e.t.c, in subsequent years. Many men and women develop this for a life time. Even after many years of the earth quake, something as trivial as a heavy object dropping or a loud sound can trigger panic in them.


Considering the impact of earth quakes on human health, both the immediate and later hazards, one can realize the mammoth task involved in taking care of human health after an earth quake.

Various international and national agencies start aid work as soon as possible but even individuals can contribute towards relief in cash or kind if possible.

Prayers for the well being of survivors and peace for departed souls is something which all can do sincerely.

E-mail-rachna212002@yahoo.co.uk