Following close on the heels of the Christchurch quake 2 weeks ago, the current disaster in Sendai,Japan is far more severe especially since the quake started on the sea-bed which resulted in a tsunami (giant forceful waves) wreaking probably more damage than the quake itself.
While it is reasonable to assume that most will panic and try to run for open space (if time permits) in the event of a quake, most international rescue outfits recommend that, in the event of a quake, people should adopt the traditional drop, cover and hold on tactic. In fact, the Red Cross strongly advises not to try to move (that is, escape) during the shaking of an earthquake. The more and the longer distance that someone tries to move, the more likely they are to become injured by falling or flying debris, or by tripping, falling, or getting cut by damaged floors, walls, and items in the path of escape.
What the drop, cover and hold on tactic basically means is that DROP to the floor, Take COVER under a sturdy desk or table(if no table- cover your head with your arms), HOLD ON to the table/desk- even if it moves! …
In the last decade, another method made the rounds that purportedly was more effective. This is the triangle of life, widely promoted by self-proclaimed earthquake expert Doug Copp. This method proposed that one should not shelter under tables but rather next to it because tables and other solid items will collapse and provide support for an open space just next to it.
More aptly, preventive measures form the mainstay of earthquake safety measures and I was quite taken up by the colorful booklet issued by the Tokyo city authorities on 10 Ways To Prepare For an Earthquake., which goes to show the level of preparedness the Japanese have against natural disasters.
Our sympathies go to Japan and her people and the next few weeks will test the resoluteness of the Japanese character as well as the willingness of the international community to assist.
As we herald the new decade, and leave 2010 behind, the year seemed devoid of blockbuster healthcare issues, but I subsequently changed my mind upon deeper review. Here’s my updated list:
1. The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill – the sheer magnitude of this man-made disaster on the environment is mind-boggling. 5 million barrels of crude oil were spilled from April to July, causing permanent ecological damage to 1000 miles of coastline, adverse effects on the fishing and tourism industry, poisoning of the global food chain, not to mention the 11 lives lost during the explosion.
2. Haiti Double Whammy – the January earthquake resulted in a quarter million deaths with over 300,000 injured. Barely had the people recovered from the economic and health effects, when the spectre of cholera, never before seen in Haiti, appeared in October, causing over 3,300 deaths, as at end-December.
3. AIDS breakthrough – among the doom and gloom, AIDS treatment research made tremendous breakthrough in 2010. Among the good news:
- A new study in South Africa showed that a vaginal gel made using Gilead Sciences’s (GILD) AIDS drug, Viread, cut HIV infections by 39% in women.
- Men taking Gilead’s pill Truvada daily as a preventive measure reduced their risk of catching HIV by 44%.
- U.S. government scientists also discovered two potent human antibodies that can stop more than 90% of known global HIV strains from infecting human cells, thus giving hope for a vaccine to prevent AIDS.
4. The Battle of the Bulge – I had written in an earlier posting that practically all slimming pills have been banned due to safety reasons (see Where Have All The Slimming Pills Gone? Taking that obesity is a major healthcare issue worldwide, the pharma industry is racing to produce a safe diet pill which will produce a block-buster which will bring in untold profits. While the FDA rejected Arena’s lorcaserin and Vivus’s Qnexa, Orexigen Therapeutics’s Contrave had received a thumbs up.
5. CPR Change – for as long as many care to remember, CPR meant a combination of chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing, the latter a common reason why bystanders were somewhat reluctant to get involved, In 2010, new guidelines were introduced where the so-called kiss of life was abolished. Read my post here.
6. Misleading Marketing by Cord Blood Banks – ABC News found the costs of private banking outweigh the potential benefits to many families.
In their marketing material, many private banking firms tout an impressive list of 70 to 80 diseases that purportedly are treated by stem cell transplants. But research has yet to prove that stem cells from cord blood work for all of the listed conditions. Private cord blood banks store blood on the possibility that in the future, there will be diseases that will affect the baby for which stem cells found in the cord blood can be used then to cure the disease.
- The Top 10 Health Care Stories of 2010 (dailyfinance.com)
- The BP Oil Spill’s Long-Term Threat to Bluefin Tuna (dailyfinance.com)
The news of the enormity of the earthquake that hit Haiti on 12 January has been rather muted up till now, maybe because of the difficulty in establishing proper communication channels. There is even a page on Facebook called Earthquake Haiti for people to look for the missing. But consider the following:
-estimates of deaths may reach 200,000.(the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami caused about the same number of deaths)
-a large number of foreigners are missing, including 1,415 Canadians.
-75% of the capital Port-au-Prince has been destroyed.
Added to the misery is the fact that only 2 hospitals are operational, the rest destroyed, including the 3 clinics run by Doctors Without Borders. This is on top of the fact that there’s no running water, no sanitation, no food, and no electricity.
While the immediate health problems are obvious to the 3 million Haitians that need urgent medical help, the real challenge will come in the weeks ahead when diarrhoea, lung infections and complications of chronic disease set in because of the poor sanitation, nutrition and inferior medical facilities.This is when international agencies like the WHO and Red Cross can lead by example, just like when they did it for the H1N1 pandemic. Perhaps they can do it with the same resolve,urgency and resource?
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After the recent tremors in Sichuan,China there is the possibility of a few more coming (aftershocks or otherwise).
If you happen to be caught in one (God forbid), you have two choices:
1. Adopt the traditional drop, cover and hold on tactic. As the name implies, run under cover beneath the nearest bed or table.
2.Practise the triangle of life, widely promoted by self-proclaimed earthquake expert Doug Copp. Basically, he states that when buildings collapse, the weight of the ceilings falling on cars or furniture crushes these objects, leaving a space or void next to these objects, forming a triangle. He advocates that people should get into these spaces rather than go underneath car-roofs or furniture. In other words, roll off the bed and stay next to it rather than under it.
The triangle of life method is not without controversy. It has been denounced by the American Red Cross as ‘not appropriate’ for US buildings, which are supposedly sturdier. The American Red Cross and most American earthquake safety bodies recommend the time-honored drop,cover and hold on technique.
It is interesting to note that the OECD Report on Earthquake Safety in schools in China published in 2005 did not specifically mention which of the two methods were more effective. Can anyone shed some light on what is being practised in China?