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Study Confirms Dangers of Evacuation Process
A study on "Deaths Related to Hurricane Rita and Mass Evacuation" was a Young Investigator Award finalist at CHEST 2006, the annual scientific assembly of the American College of Chest Physicians.
Bela Patel, M.D., associate professor, and clinical fellow Anthony Zachria, M.D., who are both in the Internal Medicine Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care Medicine and Sleep Medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, reviewed deaths during a seven-day period before and after Hurricane Rita in September 2005.
More than 80 percent of the 111 deaths that occurred were the result of the mass evacuation process, the researchers found. Of these, 10 percent were directly related to hyperthermia in motor vehicles. The combination of traffic gridlock and high temperatures, limitation of air conditioning to reduce fuel consumption, reduction of beverages to decrease restroom visits and conservation of limited supplies is suspected.
During the seven-day period, the researchers also found that almost 30 percent of medical admissions to intensive care units at the Harris County Hospital District and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center were related to the mass evacuation.
Patel and Zachria concluded that strategic planning and cooperation between public health authorities and state and local government are necessary to prevent similar evacuation problems in the future.
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