Public Health Issues and Priorities for the Haiti Earthquake

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Based on previous experience with disasters in Haiti and earthquakes in other countries, CDC has a general understanding of what the public health needs will be in Haiti following the January 12th earthquake. The following projections and recommendations take into account Haiti's socio-economic and demographic situation, and the health of its people prior to the earthquake.

Dispelling Earthquake Disaster Myths

  • Dead bodies rarely spread disease
  • Earthquakes rarely trigger major epidemics

Following the earthquake, most pressing public health concerns in Port-au-Prince and surrounding affected areas will include:

  • Adequate quantity and quality of water
  • Food security
  • Appropriate shelter and protection from the elements
  • Prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal, respiratory, and vector-borne illnesses
  • Provision of health services to prevent maternal and infant deaths
  • Prevention of violence and further unintentional injury
  • Treatment of kidney failure due to crush injuries
  • Prevention of deaths from infected wounds
  • Prevention and treatment of inflamed lung tissue caused by concrete dust

Public Health Priorities

  • Reduce and prevent further deaths, injuries, and illnesses
  • Determine and meet critical needs for water and sanitation, healthcare, and food
  • Verify the status of healthcare facilities and assist in standing up healthcare services
  • Assess and address emergency maternal and infant health needs
  • Provide health education to help people protect their own health and safety
  • Conduct disease and injury surveillance in displaced and non-displaced populations

Providing Help for Haiti

- Monetary donations are the best early option. Non-monetary donations, including people, equipment, and materials, can quickly overwhelm the response system.

- Occupational health and safety for responders is a significant concern.

- Responders should be self-sufficient. In general, they will not be able to rely on local resources for food, water, shelter, medical needs, transportation, and security.