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Health and the Environment after Hurricane Katrina

Jennifer Fisher Wilson
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Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest: None disclosed.


Ann Intern Med. 2006;144(2):153-156. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-144-2-200601170-00029
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When microbiologists went to emergency shelters 4 days after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on 29 August 2005, they faced oppressive heat, darkness from downed power lines, difficulty communicating by telephone, little fuel for their cars, and widespread devastation. Kellogg Schwab, PhD, assistant professor and co-director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Water and Health, and his colleagues found that many shelters with running water had no equipment for determining if the water was safe. Some shelters with water that was known to be unsafe to drink considered turning it off entirely, a safety measure that in itself posed other health risks, since that meant people had to use portable toilets and forgo hand-washing and showers, Schwab said. There was concern that contaminated water would cause pervasive health problems.

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