Cyclone Amphan: Five major health impacts of a severe cyclone you should know about
Cyclone Amphan, which has been categorized as a 'super cyclonic storm' by the Indian Meteorological Department, is likely to hit West Bengal today.
Cyclone Amphan, which has been categorized as a 'super cyclonic storm' by the Indian Meteorological Department, is likely to hit West Bengal today. The cyclone is estimated to make landfall around the Sunderbans. Alarm bells have also been sounded in the states of Odisha and Assam, in case the cyclonic storm moves to hit either state next.
The Indian government, as well as the West Bengal government, are taking steps to ensure the safety of both life and property in the states. About three lakh people have reportedly been evacuated from the regions most at risk. Immediate trauma, injuries, loss of life and property are the main focus of medical relief measures currently.
However, it’s important to remember that health systems and facilities, which are already spread thin due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will also have to deal with the long-term health impacts of a severe storm like this. The following are the five major health impacts that a cyclonic storm is likely to have on the worst-hit states.
1. Long-term trauma
In what the World Health Organization (WHO) categorizes as “indirect impact”, loss of life, shelter and livelihoods can have both a short- and long-term mental health effect. This can potentially delay rehabilitation of affected areas and return to normalcy, especially given that the novel coronavirus is still a matter of grave concern.
2. Food shortage
Lack of or disrupted food supplies in affected areas can lead to long-term food shortages and malnutrition, especially among newborns, infants and the older populations. This can raise mortality rates in the coming months as a result of the indirect impact.
3. Water contamination
A study published in the journal Disasters in 2004 analysed drinking-quality of water samples after a major cyclone hit Fiji, and found that the water was turbid (impure) and filled with coliform bacteria. Similar contamination of water with faeces, silt and debris are likely to affect all cyclone-hit areas, leading to a rise in cases of diarrhoea, dysentery and other water-borne diseases like cholera and typhoid fever.
4. Communicable diseases
Communicable and infectious diseases are most likely to rise after a major cyclonic storm or typhoon. According to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2015, bacillary dysentery and infectious diarrhoea claim the most amount of lives in the aftermath of a cyclone. Water-logging after a cyclone might also lead to outbreaks of vector-borne diseases like malaria, dengue, chikungunya, etc in the affected areas. Another study published in the journal Prehospital and Disaster Medicine found that the number of skin infection cases also goes up.
5. Non-communicable diseases
A study published in PLoS Currents in 2015 revealed that treatment of non-communicable diseases takes a major hit after a cyclonic storm or natural disaster due to disruptions in public health services. This leads to exacerbated illness and even death due to ailments like cancer, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, etc. A cyclonic storm can, therefore, increase the disease burden of any number of ailments affecting the people residing in the worst-hit areas in the long run.
For more information, read our article on First Aid Types and Tips.
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