Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness

Original Research

Infectious Disease Frequency Among Evacuees at Shelters After the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami: A Retrospective Study

Takahisa Kawanoa1 c1, Kohei Hasegawaa4, Hiroko Watasea3, Hiroshi Moritaa1 and Osamu Yamamuraa2

a1 Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Fukui Hospital, Fukui, Japan

a2 Department of Emergency Medicine, Community Health Care Promotion, University of Fukui Hospital, Fukui, Japan

a3 Department of Emergency Medicine, Japanese Emergency Medicine Network, Fukui, Japan

a4 Department of Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

Abstract

Objective After the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the World Health Organization cautioned that evacuees at shelters would be at increased risk of infectious disease transmission; however, the frequency that occurred in this population was not known.

Methods We reviewed medical charts of evacuees who visited medical clinics at 6 shelters from March 19, to April 8, 2011. Excluded were patients who did not reside within the shelters or whose medical records lacked a name or date. We investigated the frequency of and cumulative incidences of acute respiratory infection [ARI], acute gastroenteritis, acute jaundice syndrome, scabies, measles, pertussis, and tetanus.

Results Of 1364 patients who visited 6 shelter clinics, 1167 patients (86.1%) were eligible for the study. The median total number of evacuees was 2545 (interquartile range [IQR], 2277-3009). ARI was the most common infectious disease; the median number of patients with ARI was 168.8 per week per 1000 evacuees (IQR, 64.5-186.1). Acute gastroenteritis was the second most common; the median number of patients was 23.7 per week per 1000 evacuees (IQR, 5.1-24.3). No other infectious diseases were observed. The median cumulative incidence of ARI per 1000 evacuees in each shelter was 13.1 person-days (IQR, 8.5–18.8). The median cumulative incidence of gastroenteritis was 1.6 person-days (IQR, 0.3–3.4).

Conclusion After the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and tsunami, outbreaks of ARI and acute gastroenteritis occurred in evacuation shelters. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2014;0:1-7)

Key Words

  • Great Eastern Japan Earthquake;
  • disaster;
  • shelter;
  • infectious disease;
  • outbreak

Correspondence

c1 Correspondence and reprint requests to Takahisa Kawano, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Fukui Hospital, 23-3 Simoaigetsu, Eiheiji, Yoshida, Fukui, Japan (e-mail maketenakunarakattenake@hotmail.com).