Natural disasters impact millions of lives each year and have life alerting influence on individuals. These disasters not only deprive financial losses, destruct property but also affect mental health and cause illness and personal injuries.

By Sahar Younis,Dr Muhammad Sohail Sajid

Deprivation of resources, loss of security, and problematic access to shelter force the population to migrate to new less developed places. Generally, rapid floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes produce many health issues, injuries, and deaths. These can directly impact the health of the population and indirectly impact the health care system.

Impact on the primary health care system

Loss of primary health care leads to an increased number of patients suffering from lifelong diseases. Members of the community who need special health care are adversely affecting taking their lives at risk. These disasters also cause direct system effects on healthcare centers, clinics, and hospitals causing health care emergency which disturbs routine health care. These circumstances ultimately overload trauma-related care and disturb pharmaceutical services and damage the health of the population in the areas that suffered from natural disaster consequences. Overuse of the healthcare system crash the basic health facilities and infrastructure of the healthcare system.

Emergence of diseases

It is so true that there exists the potential of emergence and re-emergence of diseases and chronic types of illness followed by natural disasters. Shortening the term of the impact of disasters are also not unusual. These disasters not only damage the community system and cause losses but also brings several illnesses along with it. Normally it becomes a big challenge to maintain personal hygiene after encountering natural disasters. This becomes an even bigger challenge for the victims that are displaced and compelled in search of shelters. When personal hygiene is compromised, results in various infectious diseases. Similarly, injured peoples sustain potential health threats, if wounds are not treated accordingly, cause a toxic condition that can be fatal. Under these conditions, there will be more chances of exposure of wounds to the contaminated water that can worsen the illness. The risk of infections caused by the intake of contaminated food and water also increases due to interrupted water supply and sewage systems. Cholera is one of the common waters borne diseases that cause diarrhea and infection of the intestine. This disease spread widely if food and water are contaminated with cholera bacteria. Secondly, if sanitary facilities are compromised, there will be more chances that victims will suffer from diarrhea, immediately health deteriorating conditions. Another disease is known as Hepatitis A also emerges by ingesting the virus causing hepatitis. Transmission occurs by contact with feces and contaminated food and water. Hepatitis E is also among the diseases that present major post-disaster surges. Leptospirosis is another bacterial disease that is usually associated with disasters that neglected food safety measures. The risk of parasitic infection also increases after disasters and imposes significant health challenges to the public health. Amebiasis, Cryptosporidiosis, Giardiasis, Cyclosporiasis are also associated with polluted and defile food and water. Infections including rabies usually develop by an animal bite, carried by bats, dogs, foxes, pose health hazards as normal living conditions are disturbed and chances of exposure to animal bite increase. Standing water followed by natural disasters provides the ideal condition for mosquitoes which influence the occurrence of those diseases carried by mosquitoes. So, dengue virus infection and malarial infections flourish in disturbed environmental conditions that may favor the emergence of such infections. There are certain diseases that are largely associated with the presence of dead bodies. Exposure to dead bodies of humans and animals carries potential consequences. Individuals that die may carry an infection that can be transmitted to the handler through contact proving life-threatening for the handler.

Psychological effects

Health effects because of natural disasters are not necessarily of physical nature. It also affects the emotional and psychological health of people. This can vary from general emotional distress to psychological pathology. The psychological effect usually depends on certain variables. Emotional distress can be self-limiting. Some people may encounter a severe form of distress that may vary from anxiety to depression depending on their previous psychological condition and how disaster impacted them and their families.

How to overcome health-associated problems followed by disasters

Following measures can be done to minimize the health losses induced by disasters.

  • Wash your hands after handling the garbage and animal waste.
  • Try to wash hands after visiting someone who is ill.
  • Ensure that you have washed your hand after treating any wound.
  • Don’t forget to wash your hands after using the bathroom.
  • Make sure to clean and wash your hands after sneezing and coughing.
  • Don’t panic. Keep yourself calm and try to follow the instructions provided by the administrators and disaster management authorities.
  • In case of any serious health problem try to contact health, care worker and follow the special instruction given by them

Special instructions for the handlers and volunteer workers

  • Use and then correctly dispose of the gloves.
  • Try to identify each dead body and avoid mass burial.
  • Try to use body bags.
  • Wash your hands after handling the bodies.
  • Don’t forget to wash your hands after
  • Disinfect the equipment and vehicles used to transport the dead bodies.
  • Dead bodies only need to be disinfected in case of cholera and hemorrhagic fever, otherwise, all the dead bodies are not needed to be disinfected before disposal.
  • In case you found any biological hazard, immediately contact to the concerned authorities.


Sahar Younis

DVM, M. Phil parasitology

University Of Agriculture Faisalabad

Dr Muhammad Sohail Sajid

Associate professor, Department of parasitology

University Of Agriculture Faisalabad