Millions of people in nations devastated by last year’s tsunami remain vulnerable to deadly diseases but only scattered outbreaks have been reported so far, the chief of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday.
The Dec. 26 Indian Ocean tsunami killed an estimated 300,000 people in 11 countries, most of them in Asia, and left millions of survivors without adequate housing or sanitation facilities.Many of the displaced are living in crowded refugee camps.”This is going to be a vulnerable region for a very long time,” CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said during a panel discussion here sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”International health officials and relief workers had warned that tens of thousands of people could die from diseases such as cholera, malaria, dengue fever and measles in the aftermath of the worst natural disaster in living memory.But only minor outbreaks have been reported in the past two months, said Gerberding, who credited international health observers for moving quickly into hard-hit areas to nip diseases before they spread.The CDC was among those that sent staff into Asia following the tsunami. The Atlanta-based agency is now focusing its efforts on improving water, sanitation and disease detection services in Thailand and other affected nations.Gerberding said rebuilding shattered health-care services would be a critical part of the long-term relief effort. “So much of the health-care delivery system was destroyed,” she said. (Source: Reuters Health, February 2005)