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Arch Dis Child 96:328-329 doi:10.1136/adc.2009.178145
  • Leading articles

Hurricanes and child health: lessons from Cuba

Open Access
  1. Imti Choonara2
  1. 1Children's Hospital, Camagüey, Cuba
  2. 2Academic Division of Child Health, University of Nottingham, Derbyshire Children's Hospital, Derby, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Imti Choonara, Academic Division of Child Health, The Medical School, University of Nottingham, Derbyshire Children's Hospital, Uttoxeter Road, Derby DE22 3DT, UK; imti.choonara{at}nottingham.ac.uk
  • Accepted 28 July 2010
  • Published Online First 22 September 2010

Hurricanes

A hurricane is a large rotating storm with a central area of very low pressure and strong winds greater than 74 mph (118 km/h).1 The hurricane is graded 1–5 in relation to the strength of the winds, which can be greater than 155 mph (249 km/h, category 5).2 Hurricanes arise from warm, moist air from tropical oceans, and with global warming, hurricanes are occurring more frequently and with greater severity.3 Tropical storms originating in the Atlantic Ocean or the Eastern North Pacific Ocean (ie, the Northern hemisphere) are termed hurricanes, whereas those that originate from the Pacific Ocean are known as typhoons and those from the Indian Ocean as cyclones.1 Hurricanes are a major problem for countries in the Caribbean and Central and Latin America. The word ‘hurricane’ is thought to be derived from either the Carib god ‘Hurican’ or the Mayan god ‘Hurakan,’ who caused a great storm and flood by blowing his breath across the ocean.4

Health effects

It has been estimated that almost two million people worldwide have died from tropical storms (hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones) in the last two centuries.1 In the 20th century alone, there have been 75 000 deaths from hurricanes in North America and the Caribbean, including almost 10 000 deaths from hurricane Mitch, which affected Central America in 1998.5

The impact of hurricanes on health can be divided into immediate and during the recovery phase. Drowning during the hurricane used to account for the majority of the deaths. The use of warning systems combined with evacuation has, however, dramatically reduced drowning deaths.1 3 During hurricane Katrina, however, two-thirds of the fatalities were thought to be due to the direct physical effects of the flood, and the majority of the deaths were thought to be due to …