Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hurricanes Katrina, Rita may have caused up to half of recorded stillbirths in worst hit areas

Date:
May 8, 2014
Source:
BMJ-British Medical Journal
Summary:
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita may have been responsible for up to half of all recorded stillbirths in the worst hit areas, suggests research. Calculations indicate that the risk of a pregnancy ending in a stillbirth was 40% higher in parishes where 10-50% of housing stock had been damaged, and more than twice as high in areas where over 50% of the housing stock had taken a hit. After taking account of known risk factors, every 1% increase in the extent of damage to housing stock was associated with a corresponding 7% rise in the number of stillbirths.

NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Katrina, taken on August 28, 2005, at 11:45 a.m. EDT, a day before the storm made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast. While in the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina’s winds peaked near 175 miles per hour.
Credit: NOAA

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita may have been responsible for up to half of all recorded stillbirths in the worst hit areas, suggests research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

And the true fetal death toll may even be higher, because of the displacement of people whose homes and way of life were destroyed, suggest the authors.

Hurricane Katrina struck the state of Louisiana, USA, on August 29 2005, followed by Hurricane Rita a month later on September 24. Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in American history, while Rita was the fourth most intense hurricane ever recorded.

Both hurricanes caused widespread damage to property and infrastructure and left a trail of injury, death, and trauma in their wake.

The researchers used composite figures from several government agencies, showing that the hurricanes caused damage in 38 out of 64 areas (parishes) in the state, with almost 205, 000 housing units affected.

In four parishes, more than half of the local housing stock was damaged; in three others, between 10% and 50% was damaged. Elsewhere, the level of damage to housing stock was categorised as 1%-10%, or less than 1%.

The researchers then calculated the odds of a pregnancy resulting in a stillbirth in damaged and undamaged areas (less than 1% damage) in the 20 months before, and the 28 months after, Katrina struck.

But they also looked at all birth data between 1999 and 2009 in Louisiana to gauge usual patterns: during this period, 5194 stillbirths were recorded.

They then used space-time models to assess whether the extent of damage wrought by the hurricanes was linked to the risk of stillbirths in a given area.

Their calculations indicated that the risk of a pregnancy ending in a stillbirth was 40% higher in parishes where 10-50% of housing stock had been damaged, and more than twice as high in areas where over 50% of the housing stock had taken a hit.

After taking account of known risk factors, every 1% increase in the extent of damage to housing stock was associated with a corresponding 7% rise in the number of stillbirths.

Based on these figures, the researchers calculated that of the 410 stillbirths officially recorded in extensively damaged parishes, up to half (117-205) may have been directly caused by the hurricanes and the subsequent devastation.

Their estimates suggest that stillbirths made up around 17.5% to 30.5% of the total death toll in the wake of the hurricanes.

But the risk of stillbirth may have been even higher, suggest the researchers. In the hardest hit areas, the number of live births was more than 40% lower in 2007 than it was in 2004. And in parishes with more half of the housing stock damaged, the live birth rate fell by 79% in the three months following Katrina.

This "precipitous decline" is likely to reflect the well documented exodus of residents from the coastal parishes of Louisiana into other areas, they suggest.

They point to previously published research, showing a link between maternal stress, depression, and trauma and birth complications, including stillbirths.

And they warn that climate change scientists have predicted an increase in the frequency, intensity, and duration of North Atlantic tropical cyclones like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"Insofar as our empirical findings meaningfully generalise in time, the health risks to the unborn and their perinatal development will likely increase with more frequent and intense hurricanes," they write.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Zahran, I. M. Breunig, B. G. Link, J. G. Snodgrass, S. Weiler, H. W. Mielke. Maternal exposure to hurricane destruction and fetal mortality. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 2014; DOI: 10.1136/jech-2014-203807

Cite This Page:

BMJ-British Medical Journal. "Hurricanes Katrina, Rita may have caused up to half of recorded stillbirths in worst hit areas." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140508192505.htm>.
BMJ-British Medical Journal. (2014, May 8). Hurricanes Katrina, Rita may have caused up to half of recorded stillbirths in worst hit areas. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140508192505.htm
BMJ-British Medical Journal. "Hurricanes Katrina, Rita may have caused up to half of recorded stillbirths in worst hit areas." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140508192505.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

AFP (July 29, 2014) Coal mining is one of the major industries in Baluchistan but a lack of infrastructure and frequent accidents mean that the area has yet to hit its potential. Duration: 01:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins