Increased injuries resulted from both child abuse and accidents, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers say. Parental stress, weakened social supports and other factors also may have taken a toll.
"Inflicted traumatic brain injury in the most affected counties increased dramatically in the six months following the disaster when compared with the same areas before the hurricane," said Dr. Heather T. Keenan, research assistant professor of social medicine at the UNC School of Medicine.
"The same was true for brain injuries resulting from various accidents," she said. "We found no corresponding increased incidence in North Carolina counties less affected or unaffected by the storm."
Overall, child abuse brain injuries were five times more common in the hardest-hit counties in the half-year after the hurricane than before and such injuries attributable to accidents were more than 10 times as common, Keenan said.
A report on the findings appears in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Besides Keenan, authors are Drs. Stephen W. Marshall, assistant professor of epidemiology and orthopedics, and Desmond K. Runyan, professor and chair of social medicine. Mary Alice Nocera, project manager at the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, also contributed to the study.
Hurricane Floyd, which dropped 20 inches of rain in eastern North Carolina, affected an estimated 2.1 million people, with 52 deaths -- most from drowning, Keenan said. Damage was estimated at $6 billion dollars, and federal officials designated 66 counties as disaster areas.
"The incidence of child abuse following natural disaster has not been thoroughly studied, and an examin
Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill