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Epidemics, Part II

Posted by Stuart Rose on

What is the source of epidemics?

In my last blog, I asked the question: What Causes Epidemics? 

Here are some answers:

The host and environment are in constant interaction and diseases are caused by disturbance of equilibrium between disease agent (virus, bacterium, parasite), host and environment. The disease assumes epidemiological proportions when the environmental conditions are favorable for the disease agent and unfavorable conditions exist for man.

You must have observed disasters like wars, famine, floods and earthquakes are followed by epidemics of infectious disease.

Why does this happen?

The following factors favor occurrence of epidemics after disasters.

  1. Temporary Population Settlements

Temporary camps or settlements are hastily set up after a disaster, but there is usually an inadequate source of safe water for drinking and washing and a lack of toilets. Refrigeration of food is usually not possible.

Public utility services like water supply and sewage if damaged may cause large-scale contamination and subsequent introduction of diseases in the population. Interruption of ongoing health programs in the area may also lead to resurgence of diseases.

This results in a rise in the incidence of infectious diseases like dysentery, measles, whooping cough, tuberculosis, scabies and other skin diseases.

  1. Pre-existent Diseases in the Population

The diseases already occurring in the area are most likely to emerge as epidemics when the area is struck by a disaster. Medical facilities may be damaged, vital medications may be unavailable and physicians may be unable to intervene as diseases start to spread.

  1. Ecological Changes

After floods and cyclones, breeding sites for mosquitoes increase, often resulting in more cases of malaria and other insect-transmitted diseases.

  1. Resistance Potential of the Host

The nutritional and immunization status of the host population determines to a large extent its susceptibility to communicable disease. Children with poor nutrition are more likely to get infected with communicable disease and the incidence of measles, whooping cough, diphtheria and tuberculosis is likely to be higher if they are not immunized earlier.


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