Original Article

Disaster-Related Injuries and Illnesses Treated by American Red Cross Disaster Health Services During Hurricanes Gustav and Ike

Authors: Rebecca S. Noe, MN, MPH, Amy H. Schnall, MPH, Amy F. Wolkin, MSPH, Michelle N. Podgornik, MPH, April D. Wood, BSN, RN, Jeanne Spears, RN, Sharon A.R. Stanley, PhD, RN


Objective: To describe the injuries and illnesses treated by the American Red Cross (Red Cross) during Hurricanes Gustav and Ike disaster relief operations reported on a new Aggregate Morbidity Report Form.

Methods: From August 28 to October 18, 2008, 119 Red Cross field service locations in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas addressed the healthcare needs of people affected by the hurricanes. From these locations, individual client visit data were retrospectively collated per site onto new 24-hour Aggregate Morbidity Report Forms.

Results: A total of 3863 clients were treated. Of the clients, 48% were girls and women and 44% were boys and men; 61% were 19 to 64 years old. Ninety-eight percent of the visits occurred in shelters. The reasons for half of the visits were acute illness and symptoms (eg, pain) and 16% were for routine follow-up care. The majority (65%) of the 2516 visits required treatment at a field location, although 34%, or 1296 visits, required a referral, including 543 healthcare facility transfers.

Conclusions: During the hurricanes, a substantial number of displaced evacuees sought care for acute and routine healthcare needs. The capacity of the Red Cross to address the immediate and ongoing health needs of sheltered clients for an extended period of time is a critical resource for local public health agencies, which are often overwhelmed during a disaster. This article highlights the important role that this humanitarian organization fills, to decrease surge to local healthcare systems and to monitor health effects following a disaster. The Aggregate Morbidity Report Form has the potential to assist greatly in this role, and thus its utility for real-time reporting should be evaluated further.

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