Storm victims, in cleanup, face rise in injuries and illness

From the New York Times:

Day and night, victims of Hurricane Sandy have been streaming into ad hoc emergency rooms and relief centers, like the MASH-type medical unit on an athletic field in Long Beach, and the warming tent in the Rockaways the size of a small high school gym.

They complain of rashes, asthma and coughing. They need tetanus shots because — house-proud and armed with survivalist instincts — they have been ripping out waterlogged boards and getting poked by rusty nails. Those with back pain from sifting through debris receive muscle relaxants; those with chest pain from overexertion are hooked up to cardiac monitors.

“I’ve been coughing,” said Gabriel McAuley, 46, who has been working 16-hour days gutting homes and hauling debris in the Rockaways since the storm hit. “I’ve never felt a cough like that before. It’s deeper down.”

It is impossible to say how many people have been sickened by what Hurricane Sandy left behind: mold from damp drywall; spills from oil tanks; sewage from floodwater and unflushable toilets; tons upon tons of debris and dust. But interviews with hurricane victims, recovery workers, health officials and medical experts over the last week reveal that some of the illnesses that they feared would occur, based on the toxic substances unleashed by the storm and the experience of other disasters, notably Hurricane Katrina, have begun to manifest themselves.

Read the complete story here.

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