Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Heads up: watch for survivors with a rash / take your laptop [Updated]

[UPDATE:] From LA Times: "Authorities said Monday that some of Hurricane Katrina's evacuees have contracted a bacterial disease that is considered a more benign cousin of cholera, but is potentially fatal in people whose immune systems have been compromised." Full story here.

[UDPATE 2, 9/7/05] Anyone working with hurricane survivors, please scroll down for more-detailed info about this very serious, potentially fatal type of infection.

From someone in another Austin group:

"This is a heads-up to those volunteering at the convention center and other locations, working directly with the evacuees.... One woman I talked to said her husband ... and his fellow power company workers [in N.O.] had developed a mysterious rash and didn't know what to do about it, but it was itchy and irritating. I went home later and sifted through Katrina stories on the net and found a reference on the LA Times website about skin eruptions on New Orleans evacuees. Turns out, it's a strain of cholera contracted by having open lesions on the skin come in contact with diseased water or items that had been in the water. It can be fatal if not treated promptly with antibiotics.... The article says the disease is NOT readily communicated person to person, but those who have it should be identified and given treatment asap.

"BTW, I took my laptop down [to survivors in a motel] and was able to access the motel's broadband. The evacuees there were extremely grateful to be able to access email, leave messages online, look up the satellite pics of their area and get info on how to go about getting copies of important documents like driver's licenses. One fellow was supposed to get married...but the storm prevented it. He was marrying someone tomorrow, and needed an ID to get the license. One woman needed info on contacting the local school, to see if she could get workbooks so that her kids could keep up with school work. It's mind-boggling how many details one has to attend to to keep one's life going in the event of a disaster."

[UPDATE 2 info:]

From another list:

I don't wish to belabor the point about what it is called, but I do think in this case, whether one can can say it is strictly cholera or not, the importance of treatment cannot be minimized, including by terminology used..(The L.A.Times article said several times it was "related to cholera/in the cholera family of diseases). People tend to treat 'bacterial infection' as an ordinary thing that can wait. This infection should NOT be brushed aside or minimised in any way, from what I've read, and the below. And the people we are talking about are under severe stress, mild or severe shock, and their immune systems are compromised to some or a great degree. This is from Pub Med:

1. Name of the Organism: Vibrio vulnificus
Vibrio vulnificus, a lactose-fermenting, halophilic, gram-negative, opportunistic pathogen, is found in estuarine environments and associated with various marine species such as plankton, shellfish (oysters, clams, and crabs), and finfish. It is found in all of the coastal waters of the United States. [Cases of illness have also been associated with brackish lakes in New Mexico and Oklahoma.] Environmental factors responsible for controlling members of V. vulnificus in seafood and in the environment include temperature, pH, salinity, and increased dissolved organics.

2. Nature of Acute Disease:
This organism causes wound infections, gastroenteritis, or a syndrome known as "primary septicemia."

3. Nature of Disease:
Wound infections result either from contaminating an open wound with sea water harboring the organism, or by lacerating part of the body on coral, fish, etc., followed by contamination with the organism. The ingestion of V. vulnificus by healthy individuals can result in gastroenteritis. The "primary septicemia" form of the disease follows consumption of raw seafood containing the organism by individuals with underlying chronic disease, particularly liver disease (see below). In these individuals, the microorganism enters the blood stream, resulting in septic shock, rapidly followed by death in many cases (about 50%). Over 70% of infected individuals have distinctive bulbous skin lesions.

Infective dose -- The infective dose for gastrointestinal symptoms in healthy individuals is unknown but for predisposed persons, septicemia can presumably occur with doses of less than 100 total organisms.

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