Tetanus, Hepatitis Vaccination Campaign Launched In Chile Amid Fears Of Disease Outbreaks

“Chile launched a hepatitis and tetanus vaccination campaign Friday and doctors warned of outbreaks of diarrhea and infection among thousands of people displaced by the earthquake and the tsunami that heavily damaged or destroyed 36 hospitals and made garbage dumps of coastal towns and cities,” the Associated Press reports. So far, no dysentery outbreaks or other communicable diseases had been reported, Chile’s health ministry said, adding that it believed it had adequate amounts of tetanus and hepatitis vaccinations.

“Chile said more than a dozen of its own military and civilian field hospitals were operating Friday. Mobile hospitals from a half-dozen other countries also were opening or about to open – an unusual situation for a country that proudly sends rescue and relief teams to the world’s trouble spots. But most of the foreign units weren’t treating anyone a week after the disaster. Chile insisted donor nations first figure out how to coordinate with Chile’s advanced, if wounded, public health system,” according to the news service. The country’s health ministry said mental health services, garbage removal, as well as potable water and shelter were among its top priorities for earthquake survivors (Warren/Vergara, 3/6).

“The death toll will be lower than the last official estimate of about 800 people because that figure included those who were missing and presumed dead, Heraldo Munoz, Chile’s ambassador to the U.N., told reporters. The Interior Ministry said 452 victims have been identified,” Bloomberg/BusinessWeek writes. “The government also is considering broadening a flu vaccination campaign that’s due to begin March 15, to inoculate more people,” according to the news service.

During a trip to Santiago, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon “pledged an initial $10 million toward health and sanitation programs. … Chile is asking other governments and non-government organizations for help in coping with health issues, [President Michelle] Bachelet said,” Bloomberg reports.

“We have been told by the Chilean government that they have enough resources to deal with the food, water and power problems,” Ban said. “From what we have learned at the meetings, the more pressing concerns are housing and health.” The article includes information about the field hospitals and “semi-permanent modular hospitals” that are being used to deal with health problems related to the quake (Smith/Craze/Weissman, 3/6).

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