Katrina’s suffering is only just beginning. Even those who have gotten free are still in danger. So are those who followed events in New Orleans and filed their reports as they sloshed through contaminated streets and neighborhoods. Not only are the evacuees likely to be ill, they could well infect those who care for them, thus creating health crises in the refuge cities to which they have gone.
There are three groups under consideration.
The primary victims, first:
|”We have the opportunity for things we haven’t seen in many years — cholera, typhoid, tetanus . . . malaria,” said Dr. Marshall Bouldin IV, director of diabetes and metabolism at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, the state’s only major teaching hospital. ”We haven’t seen health conditions like these in 50 years. . . . People are crowded together and they’re wading through sewage.”|
That’s what’s in store for those who were in the malestrom, and may be still there. But what about the others, the ones who were finally evacuated in spite of the city’s initial ineptitude? They, too, are at risk of illness and death:
|That is why every effort should be made to prevent the evacuees from fanning out individually across the country until they have been given a battery of medical tests.|
|… every city and town now offering to shelter evacuees needs to air warnings on TV/radio to the effect that anyone who was in New Orleans during the flooding should immediately go to [X] clinic or X hospital for free medical testing. The warnings should be worded in the most urgent terms and accompanied by a toll free number to call.|
This, Pundita urges, is the most important reason for keeping the New Orleans flood evacuees together: they need to be screened and to be treated for life-threatening illnesses. This includes the reporters who were there following the events.
|In addition to risk of exposure to hepatitis and cholera, anyone who came in contact with the floodwaters could be suffering from cellulitis and sepsis, not to mention rashes of all kinds. And there is also the risk of heavy metal poisoning from toxins absorbed through the skin or via cuts directly into the bloodstream.|
|At this moment and at all costs the victims of Katrina need medical treatment (for exposure, dehydration, etc.) and medical tests almost before they need food.|
|I add that the need for medical tests extends to all who came in close contact with the hurricane victims after the flooding began. This advice extends to television film crews and press reporters.|
And third are the helpers, those who have taken evacuees into their cities, their shelters, their homes. They are also at risk for contagion from the diseases the evacuees brought with them from New Orleans.
|According to health experts, never before in the US have so many highly toxic chemicals and putrifying bodies been concentrated and trapped in a small area of flooding — from which the living have had no escape for days.|
And then, when they finally do flee, scrambling over the dead bodies of their fellow citizens, they have not escaped at all. Disease trails after them like some demented demon, calling their names, adding to the list those who help them and, most ironically, those who came only to report, who thought they weren’t “involved.”
After the deluge, the plague.