SIUH doctors weigh in on health effects of Hurricane Sandy


Hurricane Sandy caused increased illness on Staten Island, experts believe

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Many Staten Islanders attended the Health and Wellness Expo at the Hilton Garden Inn, Bloomfield. (Kiawana Rich)
Kiawana Rich/Staten Island Advance By Kiawana Rich/Staten Island Advance
on September 26, 2013 at 11:53 PM, updated September 27, 2013 at 12:11 AM

The catastrophic events of Hurricane Sandy has caused an increase in pulmonary disease on Staten Island and may likely contribute to increases in other diseases including cardiac disease and psychiatric illnesses, according to local experts. They were part of a panel discussion titled, "Your Life After Sandy: Immediate & Long Term Concerns: Behavioral, Spiritual and Mental Health After Sandy."

The discussion was part of the all-day Staten Island Health and Wellness Expo at the Hilton Garden Inn, Bloomfield. The panel was headed by Dr. Mark Jarrett, chief medical officer of Staten Island University Hospital. Panelists were Dr. Russell T. Joffe, chairman of psychiatry and behavioral science at SIUH; Dr. Theodore Strange, associate chairman of medicine and vice president of medical operations for University Hospital, and Pastor Ray Parascando of Crossroads Church.

Dr. Strange said that since Sandy there has been an increase in pulmonary diseases among patients because so many came in contact either noxious fumes or mold. This also happened following Sept. 11, 2001.

Dr. Strange added while there is no local data yet, psychological illnesses such as depression and anxiety may accelerate physical diseases such as diabetes and cardiac disease. He said data from Hurricane Katrina showed similar increases in New Orleans because of the problems people were dealing with. There were also increases in heart rate and hypertension.

He added the last couple of weeks, pollen counts here have been at "the highest levels they've been in a long time." He speculated that might be an effect of Sandy.

Also contributing to medical problems was the fact many people after Sandy couldn't take or get or even remember to take their medications.

Dr. Joffee said that the most difficult psychiatric consequences of a disaster like Sandy are that the effects are long-term and continue for months or even years. And while many may suffer post traumatic stress disorder, the biggest psychiatric problems are actually anxiety and depression."The rates of these can triple or quadruple from what you normally see in the general population because they are more common," he said.

He added that suicide is often a consequence of all these disorders. 

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