Stampedes and Heatstroke—Threats During Mass Gatherings

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According to a recent survey, one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity during mass gatherings are non-communicable diseases and physical injuries. A paper was released regarding this medical concern in the The Lancet Infectious Disease Series. In the said paper, it was indicated that human stampedes and heatstroke are the most prevalent causes of death and injuries during these events. This paper also sheds light for the proper authorities to put importance and emphasis on the intervention during such events.

According to lead author Robert Steffen from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, “Strategies for government preparedness and those of various international agencies have focused mainly on the risks of communicable diseases because of their potentially huge consequences, and less on documenting the risks introduced by non-communicable diseases.”

The risks of non-communicable diseases range from drug and alcohol use, terroristic acts, and other circumstances which put the public at risk and the organizers at a difficult situation. In the past thirty years, it was recorded that human stampedes have resulted to over 7,000 deaths and about 14,000 casualties. In fact, during the 1985 Hajj, there were about 2,000 recorded cases of heatstroke and 1,000 deaths resulting from the same cause, within a few days.

Cardiovascular risks are also heightened during mass gatherings and these conditions are associated with the emotional stress and intense psyche like what happened during the World Cup in Germany last 2006.

As for the authors of the report, the lead causes of illness and medical injuries which require on the spot ambulatory medical care are minor traumatic injuries, cuts, sprains, headache and the like. They have also noticed that in events conducted in developing countries, additional risks take place like increased injuries and illnesses, density and mood of crowd and the like.

Steffen’s team noted that there are also efficient measures which can mitigate the occurrence of these risks and injuries and one for example are providing advices and warnings to heat and air-condition related incidents, effective crowd control measure and the like.

The researchers also noted that, “Until appropriate models are developed and successfully tested, most of the medical requirements will still be based on historical data that are specific to each event. No one-size-fits-all solution exists for the mitigation of risks from non-communicable diseases at MGs. However, new rigorous research into the factors that increase the risks and best practices in the mitigation of those risks would contribute greatly to further understanding the complex dynamics of MGs.”




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