One of the compound factors causing the loss of life after natural disasters is the spread of disease. It is likely more people die in the wake of disasters; earthquakes, flash floods, torrential storms and hurricanes, from the emergence of water-borne and other diseases caused by the disruption of normal services, than as a direct result of the initial disastrous event. Hence international relief agencies and disaster response plans prioritise the early combatting of disease outbreak and the re-establishment of safe health and sanitation systems.
The serious flooding of several hundred villages in the Garissa region of north eastern Kenya in 1997 caused an outbreak of an Ebola-like virus which claimed the lives of over 100 people.
Flooding of the German-Polish border by the Oder River in 1997 left behind dangerous bacteria that caused diarrhoea and other illnesses. The population was advised to wear rubber boots and gloves when reclaiming their homes after the floodwaters receded.