Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Another Day, Another Disaster: Java Tsunami

It seems that each day brings a new natural disaster, the most recent being the tsunami that flooded Java in Indonesia. The tsunami was spawned by an undersea earthquake of Richter magnitude 7.1 beneath the Indian Ocean, which created a 6-foot wave that crashed onto the beach. Once again, a popular resort area was struck, and beachgoers fled inland to escape the approaching water.

At the mercy of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, forest fires, blizzards, and the like, we have learned that Mother Nature holds the upper hand at will. In the response to these events, what appears to be the most practical medical knowledge is right up the alley of wilderness medicine - improvisation and clinical care under austere conditions. When the power is gone, supplies are unavailable, and rescuers must tend to overwhelming numbers of victims, it is the seasoned wilderness medicine doctor who very often can negotiate his or her way through the chaos to helping the greatest number of victims. In the case of the tsunami, the immediate issues are drowning and trauma. In the aftermath, there will be some issues with infectious diseases. But the most important issues will be food, water, waste disposal, shelter, transportation, communication, and maintenance of a lawful, orderly societal structure. At times like this, we are expected not only to be doctors, but to be truck drivers, cooks, mechanics, engineers, and social workers. Sometimes the medicine is easy, but keeping up morale and maintaining a positive outlook are quite difficult.

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Tags: General Interest

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.