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High blood pressure identified as issue post-earthquake

High blood pressure identified as major issue post-earthquake

Management of chronic diseases such as hypertension has been identified as a major issue in earthquake-affected rural areas, according to a study published in the latest issue of Emergency Medicine Australasia, the journal of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine.

Medical responders need to be aware of the potential pre-existing disease burden in the community, with the possible exacerbation in post-disaster situations, said lead author of the study, Dr Kevin KC Hung, from the School of Public Health and Primary Care at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Dr Hung and his colleagues studied the health needs and chronic disease prevalence of rural Chinese following a major earthquake in Sichuan Province in 2008.

Three weeks after the earthquake, the Hong Kong Red Cross organised a basic healthcare team to Yanmen town, Jiangyou.

The researchers examined over 2000 patient encounters which occurred during the 19-day period the team was there.

Musculoskeletal, respiratory and gastrointestinal problems were the top three categories and accounted for 30.4%, 17.4% and 12.7% respectively.

43.4% of the 762 patients with blood pressure measurements were above the recognized criteria for hypertension.

Compared with other major natural disasters, the short-term effects of earthquakes include a high number of deaths and overwhelming numbers of severe injuries requiring extensive medical care.

Apart from injuries, increases in medical and obstetric conditions have been observed during the emergency relief phase following earthquakes in the United States, Japan and Taiwan.

Many studies found a sharp increase in the number of patients with coronary heart disease and stroke soon after the quake.

In Dr Hung’s Sichuan study, trauma did not contribute to a large number of cases and infectious disease outbreak was not observed.

However, the high prevalence of hypertension especially among the young might contribute to significant morbidity or even premature mortalities, the researchers suggested.


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