By Piriya Mahendra, medwireNews Reporter
The earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of eastern Japan in 2011 led to a significantly increased weekly occurrence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the months after the event, study findings show.
Hiroaki Shimokawa (Tohoku University, Japan) said that although such effects of natural disasters have been reported before, previously only short-term individual CVD events have been described, whereas his team's study involved a large population sample, longer follow-up period, and analyzed all major forms of CVD.
"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report to describe the mid-term course of major CV events and pneumonia after a great earthquake in a large population," he commented in a press statement.
The Great East Japan Earthquake hit the east of the country on March 11, 2011 and led to a total of 15,857 deaths; 3057 people are still reported missing today.
Shimokawa reported at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich, Germany, that in 2008, 3 years before the Japan earthquake struck, the incidence of confirmed CVD diagnosis in the Miyagi prefecture was 17,000. This number increased to 20,000 diagnoses in 2011.
The number of weekly cases of heart failure (HF) increased significantly from 25 on March 4, 2011 to 56 on the day the earthquake hit, corresponding to a rise of 37.5% on the number of weekly cases in March 2008.
The number of weekly cases of acute coronary syndrome increased significantly from 14 in the week before the earthquake to 18 on the day of the earthquake, stroke from 65 to 118, all-cause cardio-pulmonary arrest (CPA) from 44 to 80, and CPA (cardio-pulmonary cause) from 40 to 62. The number of weekly pneumonia cases also increased from 46 to 88 on the day of the earthquake.
The increases were independent of age, gender, or residential area (coast vs inland), noted Shimokawa.
"These findings mean that we cardiologists have to prepare for all types of CVDs in such a disaster condition," he said.
Discussant Gerhard Steinbeck (Ludwig Maximilians-Universität München, Germany) praised the study and said that Shimokawa and team must be "commended for their work."
He noted that the findings may reflect similar effects to those underlying observations made during the World Cup football tournament that took place in Germany: "During the dramatic penalty shoot-out in the very emotional and stressful game that was won by the German team against Argentina, there was a fourfold increase in cardiac arrest in the greater area of Munich," he said.
"Whatever the mechanisms for the association, the study by Shimokawa and colleagues shows us that disaster is a challenge to any healthcare system," Steinbeck concluded.
The full findings from the report can be found online in the European Heart Journal.
European Heart Journal 2012; Advance online publication
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