S118 Human Health Impacts due to Flooding in the Subtropics and Tropics

Sunday, 22 January 2017
4E (Washington State Convention Center )
Sarah M Szymborski, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL

Major flooding incidents dominate hazardous weather throughout the world especially at tropical and subtropical latitudes. Two of the major drivers of these flooding events are tropical cyclones and monsoons, which tend to effect regions of high populations. This research focuses on flooding due to tropical cyclones and monsoons and its impacts on human health. It has been determined that these health impacts vary strongly depending on location. For example, given the economy of the United States, it is usually feasible to evacuate people from the areas affected by tropical cyclone flooding. Therefore, the main detriment to human health from tropical cyclones in the United States is generally the mental health aspect. For instance, Hurricane Katrina survivors had exhibited mental health impacts, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, in an impoverished nation such as Bangladesh where monsoonal flooding occurs almost yearly, it is not practical to displace such a large population elsewhere. The greater problem with nations like Bangladesh is the spread of disease due to standing water and a lack of resources. Diseases such as malaria and water-borne allergens such as mold pose a great threat to the people. It is hoped that this research will raise awareness about the human health impacts due to flooding and perhaps enable conversations about possible solutions to minimize impacts. This is especially important because of the climate change projections that point toward more flooding events in the future, which will exacerbate these impacts. Likewise, with the population increasing in flood-impacted areas, human vulnerability will also increase.
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