Doctor: Significant Long-Term Health Effects Expected in Haiti

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Millions of Haitians could be facing major health effects from the devastating earthquake that struck the island Tuesday, Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing editor of health for said Wednesday.

"There will be significant long-term health effects that this earthquake in Haiti will bring," Alvarez said. "The first one is the public health consequence. Even before the earthquake, Haiti’s public health status was under terrible strain. Haiti still has significant problems with clean water, and dealing with certain diseases like malaria and Dengue fever, which are quite endemic to the area. With further destruction of the water supply, the people of Haiti are going to be at increased risk of developing gastrointestinal diseases, food poisoning, as well as worsening of injuries sustained by those in high-risk groups like children and seniors."

Click here to read Alvarez's blog: The Aftermath of the Haitian Earthquake

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Alvarez said Senator Pedro José Alegría Soto of the Dominican Republic, where 800,000 people of Haitian origin live, told him that many of the injured and dead are being flown into Santo Domingo to the Dominican Republic's largest hospital, Hospital General de la Plaza de la Salud. Doctors in Santiago, the second largest city in the Dominican Republic, are also treating the injured.

Meanwhile, the senator told Alvarez that workers from the Dominican Republic who were building roads in Haiti are using their heavy equipment in the hardest hit areas of Port-au-Prince to dig through the rubble in a search for survivors.

"Another long-term consequence of this disaster includes the dozens upon dozens of children who may have lost loved ones and therefore will be displaced without families," Alvarez said. "As it stands right now, family displacement in Haiti is one of the most challenging social issues that the country faces. Certainly, their safety and well being is of utmost importance."

"And finally, we keep talking about a global economy, but yet when a significant natural disaster happens, we always have to question whether we could do better in the preparation of disaster planning. As we have learned from previous catastrophic events, timing is of the essence," Alvarez added.