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Post Disaster Infection Control Response (Research Paper Sample)

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Discuss prevention of infection after a disaster.

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Post Disaster Infection Control Response
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Post Disaster Infection Control Response
Natural disasters, crises, emergencies and catastrophes of natural both natural origin and human causes lead to massive loss of life, extensive injuries, displacement of human populations, loss of property and many more adverse effects to the community. Disasters may also lead to epidemics of communicable or infectious diseases. As Isidore, Alijunid, Kamigaki, Hammad and Oshitani (2012) explain in their article titled Preventing and Controlling Infectious Diseases after Natural Disasters, "Beyond damaging and destroying physical infrastructure, natural disasters can lead to outbreaks of infectious disease”. The relationship between epidemics of infectious diseases and natural disasters is often misconstrued to be because of the many bodies that are left lying everywhere after the disaster. However, the risk for epidemics of infectious diseases after disasters is increased by population displacement, unavailability of safe drinking water and safe food, poor sanitation facilities, crowding, compromise of sewages, overflow of chemicals into the environment and the unavailability of healthcare services CITATION Joh07 \l 1033 (Watson, Gayer, & Connolly, 2007). Epidemics of infectious diseases occurring after natural disasters or crises further endanger the lives of those that have survived the disaster and are housed in shelters and tents. Infection control is henceforth one of the most important aspects of response to natural disasters.
The purpose of this paper is to provide a strategic approach to infection control in the post-natural disaster period. As the author, I assume the role of the health response coordinator and discuss in detail the strategies and rationale of the infection control response activities that will be undertaken. The paper is a problem solving discussion supported with thorough research from the vast amount of literature on disaster management and response available in online search databases and journals. The natural disaster for whose infection control strategy is discussed is a tropical cyclone of moderate strength that has struck the Australian coastal region.
Problem Statement: Crisis, Disaster or Emergency
According to the World Disaster’s Report, 2009: Focus on Early Warning, Early Action, more than 7,100 disasters happened in the decade 1999-2008, causing approximately 1,243,480 deaths and property damages summing up to more than one billion US dollars CITATION Int09 \l 1033 (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 2009). Some natural disasters that occurred in the recent past have been so destructive such that their names have remained engraved in our minds. One example of such disasters is Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf and American coasts leading to mass destruction and tremendous loss of life. Another example is the Japanese earthquake which left tens of thousands dead and masses displaced. For the purposes of this paper, we assume that a hurricane with the same magnitude and intensity as Hurricane Katrina has hit the Australian Coast. In Australia, hurricanes are referred to as cyclones, so we may as well name this natural disaster as Cyclone Katrina. This cyclone has made a landfall as a powerful storm which continues to move inland while sustaining winds of about 120 mph. The cyclone has generated violent waves and massive storms that continue to surge inland leading to massive flooding in coastal cities. The surge of the massive storm and the extreme amounts of rainfall received due to the cyclone have overwhelmed the levee system and the floodwalls of the coast have been overtopped, resulting to catastrophic flooding. Due to poor disaster preparation, only about half of the population in the area affected had been evacuated to safe grounds. After the disaster has claimed about 1,000 lives, a population of about 500, 000 people is housed in temporary shelters and the remaining buildings in the severely destroyed coastal region. Due to massive flooding and destruction of premises by powerful storms carrying with them debris, the power system, road network and sewage system has been compromised. The infection control response to this problem is discussed below.
Post Disaster Infection Control
The first step in developing a post-disaster infection control strategy is to understand the demographic properties and the situation of the population at risk. In this case, the disaster left approximately 500,000 people housed in temporary shelters and in overcrowded buildings both inside and outside the disaster region. This population, comprising of children, women and men is at risk of communicable and infectious disease outbreaks. All responders to the disaster, including rescue officials, firemen, health officials and any other individuals are at the threat of contracting infectious diseases in case of an outbreak. In essence, all the population groups of people in the region of disaster or in the region in which evacuees are sheltered are at risk of contracting a communicable infection in the event of an outbreak.
What communicable diseases are the populations of evacuees, rescue teams and responders at risk of contracting? The natural disaster discussed in this paper, Cyclone Katrina, is a hydro-meteorological disaster whose main effect is massive flooding. The public health effects of flooding are usually disease outbreaks occurring due to overcrowding of people in camps and shelters, lack of proper solid waste disposal facilities and gross contamination of water sources with toxic chemicals, sewage waste, and fecal material disposed inappropriately by the people, who lack adequate toilets (Isidore et al.,2012). Flooding also results to proliferation of mosquitoes, which are the vectors of malaria and the hemorrhagic fevers. The infectious/communicable diseases usually associated with flooding henceforth include waterborne diseases, respiratory diseases associated with overcrowding, and vector-borne diseases CITATION Jaf11 \l 1033 (Jafari, Shahsanai, Memarzadeh, & Loghmani, 2011). Diarrheal disease outbreaks occurring after disasters are normally caused by contamination of drinking water by sewage and fecal pollutants due to poor sanitation and lack of waste disposal facilities. The common diarrheal diseases that occur after disasters are cholera infections and infections with enterotoxigenic strains of Escherichia coli CITATION Sur00 \l 1033 (Sur, Dutta, Nair, & Bhattacharya, 2000). Other waterborne infectious diseases that occur after disasters include hepatitis A and E infections CITATION Khe05 \l 1033 (Khedmat & Taheri, 2005), and leptospirosis, a bacterial zoonotic infection transmitted through contact of human mucous membranes with water contaminated with leptospira bacteria from rodent urine (Jafari et al. 2011). In overcrowded areas, acute respiratory disease outbreaks may occur due to transmission from one person to another through cough droplets. Measles and meningitis infections are also contaminated from an individual to another due to overcrowding in shelters and camp sites after a disaster CITATION Ngu06 \l 1033 (Nguyen, Langidrik, Edwards, Briand, & Papania, 2006). The vector-borne diseases that might occur in camps and shelters after a disaster include malaria, which occurs frequently after floods, rabies and cutaneous leishmaniasis (Jafari et al., 2011). Other infectious diseases, including tetanus and diseases caused by streptococci and staphylococci may infect wounds and injuries sustained during the disaster and become spread among the population at risk CITATION PLi05 \l 1033 (Lim, 2005). The infection control response to Cyclone Katrina should minimize the risk of the affected population from contracting the above discussed infectious diseases.
After knowing what infectious diseases can potentially cause outbreaks and epidemics after a disaster, it is important that the risk factors of the disease transmission and outbreaks are analyzed. The identification of the risk factors of infectious disease outbreaks after a disaster like Cyclone Katrina forms part of the needs assessment of the affected population. Needs assessment and risk identification are best done by visiting the affected area. In this case, as the coordinator of infection control efforts after Cyclone Katrina, I would visit the affected area and meet the affected population in order to identify the risks and evaluate their needs. The primary concern and greatest risk for infectious disease transmission after a disaster is the fact that the people are displaced. Displacement of mass populations and sheltering them in camps and temporary shelters means that they may lack access to safe drinking water and adequate functioning latrines CITATION Joh07 \l 1033 (Watson, Gayer, & Connolly, 2007). Lack of safe drinking water and latrines may also be due to extensive damage of water sources and the contamination of water sources by sewage and toxic chemicals from broken sewer lines and production plants. Another risk of communicable disease transmission is malnutrition and starvation. Lack of adequate food for the affected population results to starvation and malnutrition, which increases the risk of death from infectious diseases by weakening the immune system of the affected CITATION PSp05 \l 1033 (Spiegel, 2005). Another factor that influences infectious disease transmission is the environment in which the affected population is sheltered. If the immediate environment of the camps or shelters where evacuees are housed is littered with sewage material or dirty contaminated water, then the people are more prone to outbreaks. The other risk factor that increases the probability of an infectious disease outbreak after a disaster is the unavail...
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