Intended for healthcare professionals


Flooding and human health

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 11 November 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:1167

The dangers posed are not always obvious

  1. Christopher A Ohl, assistant professor of medicine (,
  2. Sue Tapsell, research fellow (
  1. Section on Infectious Diseases, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1042, USA
  2. Flood Hazard Research Centre, Middlesex University, Enfield EN3 4SF

    News p 1178

    Over the past few weeks England and Wales have endured the most widespread flooding for more than 50 years. By the end of the first week of November more than 3000 homes had been flooded and transport had been disrupted; in some areas water supplies have been contaminated, and a hospital has been evacuated.1

    Flooding accounts for 40% of all natural disasters worldwide and causes about half of all deaths from natural disasters.2 Most floods occur in developing regions and tropical regions where the impact on public health is substantial, the number of people displaced is often large, and the number of deaths is high. In the aftermath of a flood deaths and injuries not only result from the physical characteristics of the event but are also determined by the prevailing socioeconomic and health conditions of the community and any endemic infectious diseases. Increased rates of diarrhoea (including cholera and dysentery), respiratory infections, hepatitis A and E, typhoid fever, leptospirosis, and diseases borne by insects have been described as occurring after floods in developing areas. 3 4 Malnutrition caused by inadequate supplies of food and problems with distribution …

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