Hurricane Victims Encounter Several Stages of Survival, Assistance, Financial, and Health Challenges over Months to Years Prior To Recovery

By Cesar Collado

Several people have asked me recently why I haven’t written directly about Hurricanes Florence, Harvey, Maria, etc., and about the aftermath? They also ask whether MicroBalance Health Products could – reach out to offer products and knowledge that could be helpful to victims.  Well, the answer is both “no” and “yes.” Let me explain.

The primary purpose of this newsletter is to provide information that is helpful to readers in understanding issues and situations where mold and human health intersect.  Hurricanes are one of the most powerful and variable natural disasters.  Communities hit by hurricanes are hit on many levels.  Following the initial wave of calamity associated with wind and rain damage, comes the flooding. Flooding is followed by more waves of safety, financial, and health challenges until ultimately, people must deal with the microscopic, biological battles that can then cripple human health—mold and bacteria from the sudden influx of water.

In good conscience, the best advice from both a general safety and mold perspective is to evacuate prior to or after the hurricane; until buildings and residences can be safely remediated and returned to.  This solution is not always practical nor is it always possible for the vast majority of the population.  Even if it was, many, if not most, would honorably remain to protect their homes regardless.  People’s homes are often their biggest and most important investments. Staying feels to many people like they are protecting their memories and families by doing so.

Immediate Direct Impact of a Hurricane

CNN: Hurricane Florence topples tree Killing mother, infant

The primary goal of any community in the midst of a hurricane is to avoid accidental deaths.  These include direct damage caused by the sheer power of the hurricane, like flooding, fallen trees, power lines, debris, accidental release of harmful gas or chemicals, water-born illness, aggravated emergency cardiovascular events, and aggravated respiratory events.  All of these are immediate and critical emergencies that overwhelm a community without preventive possibilities other than evacuation.

Secondary Impact After the Storm Subsides

Immediately following a hurricane,getting access to healthcare, safety, medicine, food and water become the primary needs for everyone.

The Entire Country Mobilizes to Lend Support

By this time, the entire country is mobilizing to provide support to get critical supplies to people in need.  Rescue efforts by trained personnel activated within the community. Getting the injured, unhealthy, elderly, and children to safety or health and medical supplies becomes an enormous effort. Getting people, including their pets, to safety is also critical.  This is executed by community professionals, FEMA, Red Cross, and non-local volunteers that come to the area to help.

Electrical, water, postal, gas, and internet can all remain out of order.  This hinders the ability to conduct normal commerce as commercial businesses are hit as well.  Every type of supply can become scarce, especially food, water, and medicine.

Third Wave, In the Days to Weeks Following 

Rains and water lines can continue to rise.  It could be weeks before the highest tide is reached and the water begins do revert back to the oceans. This is often when the first wave of biological growth becomes a dangerous reality. Dirty storm and flood water, trash, human waste, and storm debris, coupled with no means of cleaning or removal makesand exposure and infection very real, immediate threats.

Water and organic matter meet in abundance to contribute to severe mold overgrowth, which becomes immediately dangerous to people with severe inflammatory responses.  The absorption of water into drywall and building materials creates the situation. Wet drywall, in particular, can result in mycotoxin production. Each day that mold grows unchecked, the potential for mold spores to become aerosolized becomes greater. The immunocompromised, elderly, and children are especially vulnerable.

Just yesterday, there were reports of an outbreak of aggressive mosquitos.1 Experts say that floodwaters can cause eggs that would normally be dormant to hatch, creating an epidemic. Many are “three times the normal size.”  Regardless of size, mosquitos are programmed to produce eggs by taking blood.  In doing so, mosquitos can pass along viruses such as West Nile, Zika or diseases such as malaria or encephalitis.

 

Financial Realities That Impact Decisions

For weeks following the initial shock of a hurricane, families deal with the catastrophic impact it has on their lives.  Most homeowners do not have flood insurance.  Those that do are often unable to use it for proper remediation, control, and prevention of future mold growth. This is because insurance companies have, for a long time, instituted protections for their policy contracts regarding mold specifically.  Those protections only require that insurance pay for mold remediation if it is filed as part of a water damage claim—flood and hurricane damage are often exceptions and do not qualify under water damage. Insurance companies sometimes even require customers to purchase separate flood or storm insurance in places where hurricanes are a possibility. These policies are usually very pricey with very high deductibles.

It is at this point that survivors may now begin to go back to their homes to determine if they can return permanently.  Some families never left and are attempting to reclaim or continue living in homes that are not structurally sound or safe from a health standpoint.  During Katrina, many of the severe cases of mold and mycotoxin illness were suffered by the rescuers.  Lack of knowledge of mold safety led to many efforts without the proper safety gear and protection.

In addition, there are countless stories of the financial fallout for people and families living in a community damaged by a hurricane.  It is a long road to get partial relief from FEMA, local community non-profits, and even personal donations.  Repair professionals become scarce and those that are present are overworked and overwhelmed; thus, many homeowners resort to doing their own home demolition and partial rebuilds. This in and of itself is dangerous, as most homeowners do not know about how to properly handle and remediate mold. Unfortunately, the financial impact to many families is catastrophic, and many cannot afford to employ the correct professionals to help.

Long-Term Impact is Undetermined

This newsletter addresses the many impacts of mold and environmental illness on the people and families affected.  Many of these diagnoses require a physician who specifically knows and treats mold illness.  Also required are access to nutrition, medical intervention, transportation, postal services, the ability to rest and heal, and time to undertake and continually assess treatment.  In this space, we also discuss long-term implications of mold illness such as PTSD, development of autoimmune diseases, and continual misdiagnoses.

Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs

In my opinion, Hurricanes are so powerful and disruptive that they turn our hierarchy of needs on their heads. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a well-accepted phycological model that recognizes that a typical person’s priority of needs begins by fulfilling innate human needs (food, air, water, sleep, warmth) in priority and culminating in self-actualization. These are felt in the order of safety, security, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

During the trauma of a hurricane, any of these needs can become the highest priority for many reasons.  Fear of dying and fear of others dying can happen immediately.  Fear of financial insecurity and hopelessness can dominate some.  Keeping a family together, pride in being a family provider, or desire to help others are all possibilities for any individual in the face of a tragedy.

Normally Predictable Hierarchy Gets Distorted

In addition, the importance of getting medical help can be interpreted or prioritized as inclusive in safety, security, ordeprioritized to love and belonging.

 

In addition, the Ecosystem is altered as water recedes back to the ocean.  Fertilizers used for agriculture and landscaping can wash into the ocean increasing algae overgrowth and “red tides”. Endangered species can suffer population losses. More than five years after Hurricane Katrina, many communities in and around New Orleans were still recovering from the hurricane’s impact. Besides immediate damage to roads, infrastructure, businesses, and government facilities, longer-term damage takes the form of economic disruption and population loss.2

Microbalance Health Products Can Help

While Microbalance’s products do not address all needs, they can be helpful in many situations:

Hurricanes are catastrophic for any community or individual.  They create fear and insecurity for all involved.  Survival instinct takes over.  There are times where priorities change for individuals, depending on their situation.  I choose not to suggest MicroBalance Health Products as an immediate priority, nor can I suggest they will help to solve all of anyone’s immediate problems.

I can say that if you can evacuate before a hurricane, you should.  I know, many people do not have the means to just pick up and move, and a majority of people in any given city may stay at home and endure the hardship. That was the case with Katrina, Sandy, and other hurricanes.  People have endured and rebuilt over time.  It is a challenge that will continue to occur each hurricane season.

 

  1. Brown, Dalvin, “Mosquito-apocalypse is in full effect’: North Carolina hit by blood sucking pest outbreak”, USA Today, September 30, 2018.
  2. URI Graduate School of Oceanography, Hurricane Science and Society, http://www.hurricanescience.org/society/impacts/communityperspective/

 

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