Experts warn against contagious disease outbreaks in earthquake disaster zone


Experts from the Healthcare and Social Workers Union (SES) have warned against increasing cases of contagious disease spreading in tent cities that were erected after massive earthquakes hit southeastern Turkey in early February.

Speaking to the Duvar news website, SES member Deniz Topkan said they had been conducting investigations in Adıyaman province with the Chamber of Medical Doctors. Adıyaman is one of the cities that suffered the greatest damage from the earthquakes, and according to Topkan contagious afflictions such as scabies are already spreading.

“Many people have moved to villages or have had to settle in tent cities. The increasing number of people is such close quarters means diseases such as cholera and dysentery,” said Topkan. “We are already seeing cases of scabies and lice because people aren’t able to maintain proper hygiene.”

Topkan said there were not enough toilets in tent cities and that hundreds of people had to use one bathroom. Moreover, earthquake victims do not have enough clothes, and many had not changed since the disaster hit.

“Authorities need to provide victims with clothes and access to toilets and showers,” he said. “But people need to be educated about how to take precautions against contagious diseases. For instance, many are too embarrassed to report bodily itches, but it is imperative they do so.”

Most tent cities were erected close to demolished buildings where thick dust still lingered, making it detrimental to people’s upper respiratory health.

According to medical experts tent cities are not suitable for long-term habitation, and victims needed to be relocated to container housing. More doctors need to be sent to disaster areas so they can conduct frequent examinations and give people immediate access to medical care.

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep – home to around 2 million people and on the border with Syria – as people were sleeping on February 6 was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.

At least 1.5 million people have been left homeless and 500,000 new homes need to be built after the devastating earthquakes and dozens of aftershocks in southern Turkey, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) experts.

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