Week 8 – Question of the Week: What diseases will surface when society is disrupted?

Week 8:  2011-04-28 

Today I’m asking our professionals to weigh in on a question posed by Dan, one of our readers and contributors:   

What diseases would likely show up with a disruption of life as we know it?  Haiti saw a marked increase in cholera after the earthquake.  If water, sewage, hospital services are all diminished, what diseases would likely show up and what are their respective treatments?

You, too, are welcome to post your responses and questions below. 

Check back soon and see what our panel of over 100 professionals has to say.

– Doc Cindy


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About Cynthia J. Koelker, MD

CYNTHIA J KOELKER , MD is a board-certified family physician with over twenty years of clinical experience. A member of American Mensa, Dr. Koelker holds degrees in biology, humanities, medicine, and music from M.I.T., Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the University of Akron. She served in the National Health Service Corps to finance her medical education.
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3 Responses to Week 8 – Question of the Week: What diseases will surface when society is disrupted?

  1. KF says:

    Those top diagnoses codes in patients that are currently being successfully managed with treatment of medications and supplies, will become epidemic in the absence of a functional medical treatment delivery system.

    Study your most frequent billing codes in your current practice history.

    Expect the addition of bloodborne pathogens, infectious diarrhea, MRSA, Hepatitis C and D, and all communicable and sexually transmitted diseases to surge to epidemic numbers in occurrence.

    All diseases currently curbed by vaccinations will slowly begin to reappear within short order. Newborn mortality will skyrocket.

    New viral strains and mutations will continue to evolve.

    If dietary essentials for vitamin and minerals are not adequate, we will be faced with deficiency diseases not seen for centuries.

    If quarantine or border lockdown is not instituted to prohibit foreign travelers, we will see Ebola, Typhus, and Tropical Diseases.


  2. Chris MD says:

    The following is being typed on the fly, and may contain errors, misspellings and poorly thought through conclusions. Proceed at your own risk!

    By their very nature, these outbreaks are unpredictable. In the Haiti example, the cholera was imported by Nepalese troops on a humanitarian relief mission. Ironic, eh? In a societal collapse situation, the initial wave of infections would be “the usual suspects” endemic to the particular locale. Here, depending on the time of year, I would look for flu, URI’s, pneumonias. This would be followed quickly by diseases of poor sanitation, such as Samonella and Hepatitis A, and consumption of suspect food, such as botulism. We would also be dealing with infected wounds and the subsequest sepsis brought on by same. We would obviously be a set-up for some devastating plague, but unforturtunately I do not see a way to foresee nature. Too many variables to put in the equation. Do our best to maintain sanitation and hygiene, good nutrition and adequate first aid to minor wounds, and pray a lot. I suspect the scary things like diptheria and pertussis would be stymied for a while by our overall pretty good vaccination status, but that would break down with time. Also, climate change leading to more northernly occurrence of usually tropical diseases (which is already being seen) will make it even tougher to predict.

  3. Jim H says:

    A few come to mind, but I believe rabies will be a major concern. Peace.

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