Any time a disaster affects a populated area, the health and well-being of the public can be compromised.
Some of the hazards in BC include:
- fire and smoke
- tsunamis and storm surges
- severe weather
- landslides and avalanches
Many of these hazards can have serious public health consequences:
- disruption to critical infrastructure can compromise the safety of our food and water
- flooding and debris can contaminate wide areas of habitable and agricultural land
- earthquakes can interrupt the delivery of critical health services to large numbers of the population
- fires can destroy infrastructure, harm the environment and affect the quality of the air we breathe, leading to worsening of illness in some people.
The risk of a communicable disease outbreak following a natural disaster is dependant upon:
- the size, health status and living conditions of the population displaced by the disaster
- disruptions to infrastructure (such as the BC Hydro system)
- inadequate water and sanitation
- poor access to health services
With sudden population displacement, there is an increased risk of some communicable diseases being transmitted.
These are generally spread through consuming contaminated water but are also transmitted by skin and mucous membranes coming in contact with water, mud and damp vegetation contaminated by rodents in search of higher ground.
- Measles: Dependant on baseline vaccination especially among children under five
- Meningitis: Transmitted from person to person
- Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI): From lack of access to health services and to antibiotics
Vector borne diseases are transmitted by insect and animal bites, most commonly by mosquitoes.
After a natural disaster, public health may becomes vulnerable to vector borne diseases due to increased exposure to mosquitoes and animals, changes in the habitat which promotes insect breeding and interruptions to routine vector and disease control activities.
Vector-borne diseases reported in BC include:
- Lyme disease
- Relapsing Fever
- Q Fever
- Cat-Scratch disease
- West Nile virus