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To elucidate the impacts of nuclear plant accidents on neighboring medical centers, we investigated the operations of our hospital within the first 10 days of the Great East Japan Earthquake followed by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident.
Data were extracted from medical records and hospital administrative records covering 11 to 20 March 2011. Factual information on the disaster was obtained from public access media.
A total of 622 outpatients and 241 inpatients were treated. Outpatients included 43 injured, 6 with cardiopulmonary arrest, and 573 with chronic diseases. Among the 241 inpatients, 5 died, 137 were discharged, and the other 99 were transferred to other hospitals. No communication methods or medical or food supplies were available for 4 days after the earthquake. Hospital directors allowed employees to leave the hospital on day 4. All 39 temporary workers were evacuated immediately, and 71 of 239 full-time employees remained. These employees handled extra tasks besides patient care and patient transfer to other hospitals. Committed effective doses indicating the magnitude of health risks due to an intake of radioactive cesium into the human body were found to be minimal according to internal radiation exposure screening carried out from July to August 2011.
After the disaster, hospitals located within the evacuation zone of a 30-km radius of the nuclear power plant were isolated. Maintenance of the health care system in such an event becomes difficult. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2014;8:471-476)
The 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan have had devastating effects on residents near the damaged nuclear power plant, but quantifying its effect on their health has been difficult.
Among the 564 residents of Iitate Village and Soma City who enrolled in this study, we evaluated the changes of clinical parameters in 155 participants who underwent annual health evaluations in the previous year and after the earthquake. Psychological distress was also measured by using patient health questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9).
Participants (median age, 64 years) showed significant post-disaster increases in body weight, body mass index, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and triglyceride levels. PHQ-9 scores of 10 or greater were found in 12% of the subjects, indicating that a substantial number had major depression.
The findings in this study showed substantial deterioration in clinical parameters related to lifestyle diseases and the presence of general psychological distress among residents living near the damaged nuclear power plant after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. In addition to controlling the levels of radiation exposure, aggressive management of immediate physical and mental health crisis for residents may be necessary in future nuclear accidents. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2014;0:1–7)
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