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Your Environment. Your Health.

Heart Disease Hospitalizations Spiked After Hurricane Katrina

Elena N. Naumova, Ph.D.
Tufts University

A spike in cardiovascular disease (CVD) hospitalizations lasting more than a month was observed in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, according to an NIEHS-funded study. The increase in hospitalization rates was higher among older black adults compared with older white adults.

Using data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the team assembled a database with daily hospitalization rates for all CVD hospitalizations in three Louisiana parishes affected by Hurricane Katrina — Orleans, Jefferson, and East Baton Rouge. They compiled data over 710 days before, during, and after the hurricane and included demographic and population measures in their analysis using U.S. Census data and American Community Survey estimates.

The researchers found that CVD hospitalization rates were stable or declining in each parish, then rose immediately after Katrina made landfall in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. Both parishes were severely affected by the hurricane and subsequent floods. Hospitalization rates peaked in the Orleans parish on the sixth day after landfall, increasing from an average of 7.25 to 18.5 cases per day per 10,0000 adults aged 65 years or older. The rates increased to 26.3 cases per day per 10,000 people in older black adults compared with 16.6 cases in the older white adults. The rates returned to pre-landfall levels after about two months.

In the East Baton Rouge parish, which was not as hard hit but hosted many of the evacuees, CVD hospitalization rates were consistently higher on average for black adults than white adults, but no significant changes in CVD hospitalization rates were noted after landfall.

Citation: Becquart NA, Naumova EN, Singh G, Chui KKH. 2019. Cardiovascular disease hospitalizations in Louisiana parishes' elderly before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. Int J Environ Res Public Health 16(1).

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