Today, Hurricane Sandy seems like a distant memory. That is, unless you were in the wake of the devastation that flew across the East Coast. Even in the weeks that followed the storm, reports of serious health complications were reported. Then, there was the repair to flooded properties and rebuilding of destroyed homes and buildings. To date, a number of people living in the flood zones are dealing with respiratory problems.
Effects of Sandy
On October 28, 2012, mandatory evacuations were put in place due to the coming of Hurricane Sandy, and the following day the storm hit. Due to massive rainfall, there were 7 million to 8 million residents throughout the affected areas who were without power. According the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Red Cross reported 117 people perished as a result of Sandy. The most common cause was drowning, and 45 percent of these cases took place in homes located in New York City's Evacuation Zone A.1 However, the effects of the hurricane go far beyond destruction of homes and buildings along the coast, many victims are still struggling with health issues today.
The New York City Poison Control Center investigated reported cases of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure two weeks after Hurricane Sandy struck.2 Data was collected using standardized and de-identified information sets that underwent a retrospective review. During this 12-day period, researchers noticed a spike in the number of suspected carbon monoxide poisonings reported. Emergency rooms and hospitals across the city indicated that there were 437 such cases. During the same two-week timeframe in 2008, the greater New York area only saw 116 reportings of CO poisoning.3
Today, Fox News reports that irritants left behind from the flooding are leading to respiratory repercussions for many individuals. Symptoms range from coughs to asthma to respiratory distress.
"Allergic-type symptoms, hay fever symptoms, congestion of the sinuses and nose, sore throat, rashes – these are things that people frequently complain of when they've had to either live for prolonged periods of time in a water-damaged environment or have had to move out because of it," Dr. Neil Schachter, a pulmonary specialist, told the source.4
This can be due to mold and other bacteria that is growing due to the damages sustained by properties. Those who suffer from cystic fibrosis or diabetes are at a greater risk for having more severe reactions to these contaminants. These issues were first noticed by the Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, N.J., when medical experts expressed concern of future health complications during the storm. The facility estimates that 14 to 30 percent of patients who come in for their Respiratory Evaluation for Sandy Program are referred to a primary care physician or specialist for further care.
Anyone who was affected by Hurricane Sandy or flooding due to other conditions are urged by health care professionals to seek an evaluation of their respiratory functions to avoid future complications. Even if the water damage took place years ago, the exposure over time can build up to serious medical conditions. The sooner something like this is caught, the more effectively it can be treated.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Deaths associated with Hurricane Sandy – October-November 2012" May 24, 2013
2 Clinical Toxicology, "Carbon monoxide exposures in New York City following Hurricane Sandy in 2012"
3 LiveScience, "Hurricane Sandy brought surge in carbon monoxide poisonings" October 28, 2013
4 Fox News, "Sanding survivors may be experiencing respiratory problems 1 year later" October 29, 2013