Ethics. Research. Community.

Emergency preparedness and response in Israel during the Gulf War.

Annals of emergency medicine. 
[Record Source: PubMed]
We examined the effect of the emergency response on medical and public health problems during the 1991 Gulf War in Israel. On the first day of the conflict, the number of deaths from suffocation, asphyxiation, aspiration, myocardial infarction, cardiac arrest, and cerebrovascular accident increased abruptly, as did the number of sudden deaths associated with the use of tight-fitting masks with filters in sealed rooms. Much of the excess risk for death from cardiorespiratory complications during the first alert may have been a consequence of its duration (140 minutes). Mass evacuation and concrete buildings are believed to have kept the death toll from trauma down, and mask use may have protected against facial and upper-airway injuries. Falls and hip fractures, airway irritation from exposure to bleach, carbon monoxide intoxication from open kerosene heaters in sealed rooms, and self-injection with atropine syringes were also noted. A measles epidemic and increased death rates from automobile crashes were other preventable causes of death. Protection against biological warfare was limited to surveillance of trends for pneumonia and gastroenteritis. Emergency planners failed to anticipate the need for better mask fit, hands-on training in the use of masks, and special guidelines for older persons to prevent deaths from suffocation and other cardiovascular-respiratory problems in the first minutes of use. If masks are to be distributed as a protection against chemical warfare, a simpler model including the use of shrouds for whole-body skin protection might help avoid cardiorespiratory complications. Public health problems not adequately dealt with in the predisaster period are apt to emerge with greater severity during a crisis.
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