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Chile Launches Vaccination Campaign

Posted by ObeMike Monday, March 22, 2010

source: www.philly.com
by: Michael Warren and Eva Vergara

CONCEPCION, Chile - Chile launched a hepatitis and tetanus vaccination campaign yesterday and doctors warned of outbreaks of diarrhea and infection among thousands of people displaced by the Feb. 27 earthquake and tsunami.
Doctors worry that huge piles of trash and tons of rotting fish and other debris along the coast have become nests of infection. A growing number of patients are getting injured as they wade through the mess.
"We are going to keep needing water, electric systems, a functioning sewage system," said Talcahuano Mayor Gaston Saavedra, whose port city was heavily damaged. "We need to clean up rotting fish in the streets. We need chemical toilets, and when it starts raining, people living in tents are going to get wet and sick. All this is going to cause infections."

Chile said more than a dozen of its own military and civilian field hospitals were operating yesterday; 36 hospitals were heavily damaged or destroyed. Mobile hospitals from a half-dozen other countries were opening or about to open - an unusual situation for a country with an advanced public-health system that proudly sends rescue and relief teams to the world's trouble spots.

But most of the foreign units were not treating anyone a week after the disaster. Chile has insisted that donor nations first figure out how to coordinate with Chile's public-health system.

Chile signed an operating agreement for a U.S. field hospital yesterday, enabling 57 U.S. military personnel to work side by side with civilian Chilean doctors in the coming days to support a population of 3,000 in the town of Angol.

Chile's health ministry said that there had been no outbreaks of dysentery or other communicable diseases and that it had enough tetanus and hepatitis vaccinations for the disaster zone.

Field hospitals being provided by Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Peru, Spain, and the United States are meant to relieve the damaged or destroyed Chilean hospitals.

Powerful aftershocks yesterday forced the evacuation of an older wing of Concepcion's five-story regional hospital.

The most powerful aftershock in six days sent terrified Chileans fleeing into the streets. The magnitude-6.6 shock at 8:47 a.m. rattled buildings for nearly a minute and sent office chairs spilling from an exposed upper floor of a badly damaged 22-story office building.

Patients struggled to find medicines and fill prescriptions because pharmacies were looted earlier in the week and power outages still affected businesses and clinics. More than 100 people lined up outside one of Concepcion's few open drugstores. Soldiers stood guard nearby.

Officials struggled to determine the death toll. Disaster officials announced they had double-counted at least 271 missing as dead - an error that would drop the official death toll to about 540 without other mistakes. Interior Department officials said they would release only the number of dead who had been identified: 452 as of late yesterday.

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