Health Experts: More Misery Ahead For Haitians

First there was the violent seismic spasm, and then a continuing series of random temblors that keeps the survivors on edge.

But other dangers are beginning to emerge and multiply, say public health experts.

  • Injured people rest in the streets of Port-au-Prince Thursday, two days after the devastating 7.0 quake.
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    Injured people rest in the streets of Port-au-Prince Thursday, two days after the devastating 7.0 quake.
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  • Rescuers carry an injured girl down the street after digging her out of the rubble Thursday.
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    Rescuers carry an injured girl down the street after digging her out of the rubble Thursday.
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  • Virginia Cary, of Cleveland, Tenn. waits at the Port-au-Prince airport in hopes of a return flight to the U.S.
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    Virginia Cary, of Cleveland, Tenn. waits at the Port-au-Prince airport in hopes of a return flight to the U.S.
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  • Fireman attempt to put out a blaze in Port-au-Prince Thursday.
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    Fireman attempt to put out a blaze in Port-au-Prince Thursday.
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  • After 50 hours trapped, James Girly, 64, is rescued from the remains of the Montana Hotel by the French military.  (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
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    After 50 hours trapped, James Girly, 64, is rescued from the remains of the Montana Hotel by the French military. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
  • Workers dig for bodies in a fight against time.
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    Workers dig for bodies in a fight against time.
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  • A woman who lost a hand lies on the ground outside a makeshift recovery ward in Port-au-Prince Friday.
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    A woman who lost a hand lies on the ground outside a makeshift recovery ward in Port-au-Prince Friday.
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  • An injured child waits for medical attention near a damaged hospital in Carrefour, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Friday.
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    An injured child waits for medical attention near a damaged hospital in Carrefour, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Friday.
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  • People line up to for gasoline. Aid organizations are struggling  to get needed resources to survivors.
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    People line up to for gasoline. Aid organizations are struggling to get needed resources to survivors.
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  • People line up to receive water, an in-demand commodity, from a firetruck in Port-au-Prince.
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    People line up to receive water, an in-demand commodity, from a firetruck in Port-au-Prince.
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  • Earthquake survivors use water from a fountain to bathe in the central public garden of Port-au-Prince.
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    Earthquake survivors use water from a fountain to bathe in the central public garden of Port-au-Prince.
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  • People wave at a helicopter in the center of Port-au-Prince. Aid efforts are slow to reach the Haitian capital.
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    People wave at a helicopter in the center of Port-au-Prince. Aid efforts are slow to reach the Haitian capital.
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  • The magnitude of the disaster is overwhelming relief efforts.
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    The magnitude of the disaster is overwhelming relief efforts.
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  • Bolivian U.N. Blue Helmet soldiers stand guard at an aid center in Port-au-Prince as a group of Haitians carries a victim.
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    Bolivian U.N. Blue Helmet soldiers stand guard at an aid center in Port-au-Prince as a group of Haitians carries a victim.
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  • A staff member from the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, treats an injured man.
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    A staff member from the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, treats an injured man.
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  • Men carry an injured relative in Port-au-Prince. The Haitian Red Cross estimates that more than 50,000 people may have been killed in the earthquake.
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    Men carry an injured relative in Port-au-Prince. The Haitian Red Cross estimates that more than 50,000 people may have been killed in the earthquake.
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  • A member of the Fairfax Country Urban Search & Rescue Team and her K-9 partner search the U.N. Headquarters for more survivors after freeing a man who was trapped for 40 hours in the rubble.
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    A member of the Fairfax Country Urban Search & Rescue Team and her K-9 partner search the U.N. Headquarters for more survivors after freeing a man who was trapped for 40 hours in the rubble.
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  • Aid trickled in Thursday morning. Here, Maurice Cain, senior airman with the U.S. Air Force, unloads humanitarian supplies from Panama at the Port-au-Prince airport.
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    Aid trickled in Thursday morning. Here, Maurice Cain, senior airman with the U.S. Air Force, unloads humanitarian supplies from Panama at the Port-au-Prince airport.
    Lynne Sladky/AP
  • A U.N. peacekeeper from Chile works in the rubble of the Montana Hotel.
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    A U.N. peacekeeper from Chile works in the rubble of the Montana Hotel.
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  • With thousands missing and the death toll climbing, dazed survivors wander amid the ruins of Port-au-Prince two days after the devastating earthquake.
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    With thousands missing and the death toll climbing, dazed survivors wander amid the ruins of Port-au-Prince two days after the devastating earthquake.
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  • Haitians walk though streets filled with rubble and bodies.
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    Haitians walk though streets filled with rubble and bodies.
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  • Displaced people create makeshift shelters out of tarps and sheets.
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    Displaced people create makeshift shelters out of tarps and sheets.
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  • A woman prepares a bed in the street Tuesday night after the quake.
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    A woman prepares a bed in the street Tuesday night after the quake.
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  • Many Haitians spent a second night on the streets. Here, people gather on a square in Port-au-Prince's Petionville district.
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    Many Haitians spent a second night on the streets. Here, people gather on a square in Port-au-Prince's Petionville district.
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  • Members of the congregation of First Lutheran Church in Duluth, Minn. pray for the earthquake victims Thursday. The pastor's son is believed to have been killed in the quake.
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    Members of the congregation of First Lutheran Church in Duluth, Minn. pray for the earthquake victims Thursday. The pastor's son is believed to have been killed in the quake.
    Clint Austin/AP/Duluth News Tribune
  • Members of Canada's Haitian community comfort each other at the Haitian-Canadian Community Center in Montreal.
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    Members of Canada's Haitian community comfort each other at the Haitian-Canadian Community Center in Montreal.
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"I think there's going to be a series of health aftershocks," says Dr. Dan Fitzgerald of Weill-Cornell Medical College, who knows Haiti well.

He says for the next few days many more people will die from their untreated injuries, owing to infections as well as kidney failure that happens when protein from injured muscle spills into the bloodstream.

"That's sort of the first wave," Fitzgerald says. "The second wave will be a lack of clean water, housing and sanitation. So people are going to start suffering from diarrheal diseases [and] respiratory tract infections."

The third phase arrives when what little food there is runs out.

"Haiti's already one of the most food-insecure countries in the world," Fitzgerald says. "So people are going to start starving over the next week."

Fitzgerald predicts increasing social chaos.

"When you have 3 million people who are traumatized, have no clean water, no housing, no food — unfortunately, security is going to become a big issue," he says. "People are going to be fighting to survive."

An injured girl is given water by a French aid worker

An injured girl is given water by a French aid worker at a makeshift field hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Wednesday. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Matthew Marek, the American Red Cross chief in Port-au-Prince, reports that the mood is turning dark and increasingly desperate. In a Skype interview Wednesday night from his small apartment — now the Red Cross' headquarters in Haiti — Marek surveyed an ominous dark sky and worried about what a drenching rainstorm would do, in terms of human misery in a population of 3 million living out in the open.

"The emotions are all over the place," Marek says. "There are frustrations. There are tensions. People are shocked. It's everything you could imagine. It looks like a bomb has gone off in Port-au-Prince."

Marek's testimony illustrates, yet again, how fragile and tenuous the pre-earthquake support structure was in Haiti.

As soon as the shaking stopped, Marek and his colleagues crawled out from under their desks and walked out "a new door in our office" where a wall used to be. They set up a makeshift triage clinic in the vacant lot next door, using scanty first-aid supplies on hand. Thousands of people lined up all night.

Within 24 hours, the Red Cross announced it had exhausted its medical supplies in Haiti.

While cleaning wounds and putting compresses on lacerations, Marek was trying to find out what had happened to six of his 15-member staff who were still unaccounted for last night.

Thursday, the first of an outpouring of international aid is beginning to trickle into Haiti, in an attempt to head off multiplying catastrophes. But Marek says the survivors are in for some harsh times.

"I don't think all of our good intentions [are] going to be able to relieve the effect that this tragedy has had," he says.

In other words, all the aid in the world won't be enough.

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