Children and Disasters

Issue #3: December 2, 2013


  • TYPHOON HAIYAN, THE PHILIPPINES  Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on November 8 as one of the strongest storms ever recorded. It has been estimated that 1.7 million children in the Philippines have been displaced. Mass displacements typically result in separation of children from their families, increasing their vulnerability to abuse and physical hazards. Red Cross family tracing services have participated in reconnecting families separated by the storm. Early health issues observed among children after the storm included lack of clean water resulting in gastrointestinal infections and diarrhea. With vaccine-preventable illnesses currently occurring in other disrupted regions of the world, immunizations against measles and polio have been identified as a high priority for relief agencies in the Philippines. As of November 26, some remote areas still lacked medical services, with high rates of respiratory infections, wound infections, and effects of untreated chronic conditions. 


  • EPIDEMIOLOGIC METHODS IN CRISIS ASSESSMENT – In a review of natural disasters, armed conflict, and public health, Drs. Leaning and Guha-Sapir provide an overview of epidemiologic methods to determine population needs in disasters, to guide efforts of disaster relief teams, as well as the scientific work of researchers. Approaches include rapid medical assessment of populations and sampling methods to detect thresholds warranting escalating interventions. Published ethical and operational guidelines are also cited to assist public health responders in complex crisis environments. 
  • VACCINE STORAGE AND HANDLING – The Centers for Disease Control provide a toolkit of recommendations for handling vaccines, including routine as well as emergency procedures to protect vaccine inventories. 
  • INFOGRAPHIC FROM THE INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE  See tips from the Institute of Medicine to help prepare for emergencies involving children. Speaker presentations at a June 2013 workshop can be obtained by clicking on names in the “Sources” section at the bottom of the infographic.
  • EMERGENCY RESPONSE PLANNING FOR CHILD CARE PROVIDERSCIDRAP has linked to an important training resource for child care providers. The guidebook, prepared by Montgomery County HHS, is designed to provide child care providers with the knowledge and tools to establish an emergency response plan for their individual program and to assist in recovery efforts by helping children cope with trauma.


  • DENGUE FEVER – Dengue fever is caused by dengue viruses and transmitted by the daytime-biting Aedes aegypti and other related species of mosquito. Clinical symptoms in individuals with no prior exposure include fever, very severe headache, back pain, joint and muscle aches, and a rash. Life threatening hemorrhagic fever and shock sometimes occur. Previously infected individuals, or infants with maternal antibody, who become infected by a different subtype of dengue virus may be at greater risk for severe disease. Infection confers subsequent immunity to that subtype of virus. While widespread in tropical urban settings, and a leading cause of child hospitalization in endemic countries, dengue-like illness also is increasingly recognized in the US, usually among travelers to endemic areas. Locally acquired cases have been reported in Florida. The Aedes aegypti mosquito also has recently been identified in California’s Central Valley, although no cases of locally acquired dengue-like illness have been diagnosed in California. The diagnosis is confirmed by detecting the virus, viral antigen or genome, or rising antibody levels in the infected patient. Children are susceptible to dehydration. Treatment is general supportive care (pain control and hydration). There is no antibiotic or vaccine. Efforts to develop a vaccine have been complicated by the goal of immunizing simultaneously against all dengue virus strains. Depending on the actual number of strains of the virus, this may be difficult. Efforts to control mosquito larvae are limited by the development of insecticide resistance, loss of herd immunity in the endemic area, and reintroduction of the virus from other locations. 

Edited byDr. Bob Kanter

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