Morbidity among the Israeli Defense Force response team during Nepal, post-earthquake mission, 2015

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Background: On 25 April 2015, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. Soon after, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) dispatched a rapid-response team and opened a tertiary field hospital in Kathmandu. There is limited data regarding the spectrum of diseases among rescue teams to disease-stricken areas. The aim of this study was to assess the morbidity among the field–hospital staff during the mission.

Methods: The rescue team was deployed for a 2-week mission in Kathmandu. Pre-travel vaccinations were given prior to departure. The field-hospital was self-equipped including food and drinking water supply with a self-serving kitchen, yet had a shortage of running water. A Public Healthcare and Infectious-Diseases team was present and active during the entire mission. A survey assessing the morbidities and risk-factors throughout the mission was performed at the last day.

Results: One hundred thirty-seven (69%) team members completed the questionnaire. Medical complaints were recorded in 87 of them (64%). The most common symptoms were gastrointestinal (GI) (53% of all responders, 84% of the 87 with symptoms). Respiratory symptoms were recorded in 16% and fever in only 8%. There was no significant difference in the rate or spectrum of morbidity between the medical and the non-medical staff.

Conclusions: The Israeli field hospital was a stand-alone facility, yet 53% of its’ staff suffered from GI complaints. Prevention of morbidity and specifically of GI complaints upon arrival to a disaster–stricken area in a developing country is difficult. Medical teams in such missions should be acquainted with treating GI complaints.

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