rerun image Although infectious diseases are a frightening prospect, widespread outbreaks of infectious disease after hurricanes are not common in the US. Rare and deadly exotic diseases, such as cholera or typhoid fever , do not suddenly break out after hurricanes and floods in areas where such diseases do not naturally occur.

Communicable disease outbreaks of diarrhea and respiratory illness can occur when water and sewage systems are not working and personal hygiene is hard to maintain as a result of a disaster.

Infectious Diseases and Natural Disasters

  • Diarrhea , upset stomach, and colds sometimes occur in developed countries, such as the US, after a natural disaster. This is particularly true among large groups of people in a shelter.
  • Disease outbreaks can occur when sanitation and hygiene are compromised as a result of a disaster. To help prevent diseases, use basic hygiene measures, like frequent hand washing or using an alcohol hand gel, especially after using the restroom, changing diapers, and before eating.
  • Outbreaks that occur are almost always from diseases that were already in the area before the disaster struck. For example, because cholera and typhoid are not commonly found in the US Gulf States area, it is very unlikely that they would occur after a disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina.
  • As has been the case in past hurricanes, the US Department of Health and Human Services quickly sets up tracking systems that monitor illnesses in hurricane-affected areas. In the unlikely event that a disease outbreak occurs, these systems provide an early warning that enables prompt public health response.