The study, published in the July issue of the American Journal of Public Health, showed that the September 1999 hurricane -- the worst in recorded state history -- produced large increases in hospital emergency room and outpatient services use in affected areas.
"Our findings suggest that hurricane victims experienced substantial changes in patterns of care that endured for much longer than the initial crisis period," wrote lead author Dr. Marisa Elena Domino, assistant professor of health policy and administration. "These findings can have important implications for the management of disaster relief for this population."
Other authors of the report, all at UNC, are Dr. Bruce Fried, associate professor of health policy and administration, Dr. Yoosun Moon, and Jangho Yoon, both public health graduate students, and computer expert Joshua Olinick.
Earlier research showed that the storm dropped almost 20 inches of rain in some areas, killed at least 51 people, closed 250 roads, damaged 67,000 homes and destroyed about 8,000 of them, the authors wrote. It cost an estimated $6 billion. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Economic Development Administration found that 44 of the state's 100 counties were substantially affected by flooding.
A survey of 18 emergency departments in eastern North Carolina showed increases in suicide attempts, dog bites, fevers, basic medical needs and dermatitis during the first week following the hurricane. The short-term effect included fewer filled prescriptions and an almost 8 percent drop in hospital admissions for Medicaid recipients that first week and a 4 percent to 7 percent increase in emergency
Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill