Risks from Injury
The risk for injury during and after a natural disaster is high. Persons who anticipate the need to travel in hurricane-affected areas should be advised to wear sturdy footwear to protect their feet from widespread debris present in these areas. Tetanus is a potential health threat for persons who sustain wound injuries. Any wound or rash has the potential for becoming infected and travelers should be advised to have such wounds or rashes assessed by a healthcare provider as soon as possible. Travelers should also be instructed to immediately cleanse any wounds, cuts, or animal bites with soap and clean water. Familiarity with basic first aid is advised to self-treat any injury until medical attention can be obtained.
Travelers should be cautioned to avoid downed power lines. During power outages, many people use portable electrical generators. If the portable generator is improperly sized, installed, or operated, it can send power back to the electrical lines. This problem is called backfeed or feedback in the electrical energy in power lines. Backfeed can seriously injure or kill repair workers or people in neighboring buildings. In addition, electrical power and natural gas or propane tanks should be shut off to avoid fire, electrocution, or explosions. Battery-powered flashlights and lanterns, rather than candles, gas lanterns, or torches, should be used.
Risks from Food and Water
Natural disasters contribute to the spread of many serious food and water-borne diseases, especially since water supplies and sewage systems have been disrupted. Diarrheal diseases, due to bacteria, parasites or hepatitis A can possibly occur. If a trusted source of bottled water is not available, water should be boiled or disinfected.
An antibiotic for self-treatment of acute diarrhea, such as a fluoroquinolone (e.g. ciprofloxacin), can be given. Azithromycin can be used as an alternative. The travel planning should be instructed to take this medication until symptoms subside (typically 3 days). Antimotility agents such as loperamide and diphenoxylate and/or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) can reduce bowel movement frequency.
Instruct travelers to seek medical attention for diarrhea accompanied by a high fever or blood. Additionally, replacement of lost fluids by drinking clean water is the most important means of maintaining wellness, although oral rehydration solutions are ideal for the treatment of severe diarrhea.
Stress the importance of handwashing in preventing disease transmission, recommend frequent hand washing with either soap or water or a waterless hand wash.