Wave of medical problems assail Chile

CONCEPCION, Chile — Chile launched a hepatitis and tetanus vaccination campaign Friday, and doctors warned of outbreaks of diarrhea and infection among thousands of people displaced by the earthquake and the tsunami that heavily damaged or destroyed 36 hospitals.

With many pharmacies looted, people suffering from diabetes, hypertension and psychological illnesses are going without medicine.

Doctors report increasing cases of diarrhea among people drinking unclean water and worry that huge piles of garbage and tons of rotting fish and other debris along the coast have become nests of infection. A growing number of patients is being injured wading through the mess.

"We are going to keep needing water, electric systems, a functioning sewage system," said Talcahuano Mayor Gaston Saavedra, whose port city was heavily damaged by the Feb. 27 quake and tsunami.

Chile said more than a dozen of its military and civilian field hospitals were operating Friday. Mobile hospitals from a half-dozen other countries also were opening or about to open.

Powerful aftershocks Friday forced the evacuation of an older wing of Concepcion's five-story regional hospital.

The most powerful after quake in six days, a magnitude 6.6 shock at 8:47 a.m., rattled buildings for nearly a minute.

Officials struggled to determine the death toll. Disaster officials announced they had double-counted at least 271 missing as dead — an error that would drop the official death toll to about 540.

Interior Department officials said they would now release only the number of dead who had been identified: 452 as of late Friday.

AID FOR HAITI: Experts who track charitable giving said Friday that donations from Americans for earthquake relief in Haiti have passed $1 billion.

Wave of medical problems assail Chile 03/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 5, 2010 11:04pm]

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