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Major Sandstorm in Iraq and Hepatitis Infects 109 Children across 25 US States

Updated: May 20

May 5-11, 2022 | Issue 7 - Emergency Management, Health, and Hazards (EMH2)

Alyssa Schmidt, Megan Bilney, EMH2 Team

Hannah Norton, Editor; Demetrios Giannakaris, Senior Editor


Iraq dust storm[1]

Date: May 5, 2022

Location: Baghdad, Al-Anbar, Kirkuk, Diwaniya, Salaheddin, and Najaf, Iraq

Parties involved: Iraq residents; local hospitals; local farmers

The event: A sandstorm in Iraq killed one and hospitalized at least 5,000 individuals with respiratory illnesses. The dust storm impacted six provinces and stopped flights entering Baghdad and Najaf. Iraq experienced seven sandstorms in the last 30 days, with experts predicting the increasing frequency is related to climate change.

Analysis & Implications:

  • Drought and increasing temperatures will likely exacerbate the frequency of dust storms in Iraq, likely increasing with the international use of fossil fuels and unsustainable manufacturing. As sandstorms increase, respiratory-depressed individuals will likely increasingly seek medical aid for breathing difficulties, likely increasing the need for preventive care. Patients will likely require transportation to nearby hospitals for adequate care, particularly during sandstorms when the population’s necessity for medical treatment will likely increase. This will likely increase road traffic around hospitals in poor visibility conditions, very likely increasing the risk of crashes and placing further pressure on the healthcare system.

  • Sandstorms will likely disrupt farming practices and travel due to reduced visibility. Farming equipment will likely require increased maintenance, likely increasing the cost of food production. The current harvest season will very likely have a reduced crop yield, especially wheat, likely decreasing food availability and exports. Iraq will likely have reduced access to imports until visibility increases, and flights are resumed, very likely impacting the food supply.

Date: May 6, 2022

Location: USA

Parties involved: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); US children; US hospitals

The event: Hepatitis infected 109 children in 25 states, with the majority requiring hospitalization. The CDC is investigating the cases and exploring possible causes. Many of the patients were unvaccinated against hepatitis. Hepatitis is a liver infection, rare in children, usually caused by alcoholism and viruses in adults, with symptoms of jaundice, stomach pain, and nausea.[2]​ The CDC has issued warnings for health care staff to conduct adenovirus testing when children present with hepatitis symptoms. Three of the nine Alabama cases had acute liver failure.[3]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The acute liver failure that occurred in some of the cases will likely increase the demand for organ and blood donations. Children will likely be hospitalized until the necessary treatment is available, with treatment delays likely to increase the long-term impacts of the infection. Infected children will likely be exposed to COVID 19 when hospitalized, almost certainly putting them at high risk of infection and serious symptoms.

  • Long-term infection with Hepatitis will likely increase stress and financial strain on families. Prolonged illnesses in concentrated locations will likely lead to a higher demand for hospital admissions, medication, and specialized services, likely causing families to seek aid from the government to assist with debt. This will likely result in long-term physical and mental illnesses and very likely increase the need for public health resources and additional educational support for the impacted families.

 

The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)


[1]Iraq dust storm” by Revent licensed under Creative Commons

[2] C.D.C. Is Investigating 109 Cases of Hepatitis in Children, Including 5 Deaths, The New York Times, May 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/06/health/cdc-hepatitis-children.html

[3] What parents should know about the increase in unexplained hepatitis cases in children, CNN, May 2022, https://edition.cnn.com/2022/05/09/health/hepatitis-children-liver-adenoverius-parents-wellness/index.html

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