Skip to main content Accessibility help

Health Impacts of Floods

  • Weiwei Du (a1), Gerard Joseph FitzGerald (a2), Michele Clark (a2) and Xiang-Yu Hou (a3)



Floods are the most common hazard to cause disasters and have led to extensive morbidity and mortality throughout the world. The impact of floods on the human community is related directly to the location and topography of the area, as well as human demographics and characteristics of the built environment.


The aim of this study is to identify the health impacts of disasters and the underlying causes of health impacts associated with floods. A conceptual framework is developed that may assist with the development of a rational and comprehensive approach to prevention, mitigation, and management.


This study involved an extensive literature review that located >500 references, which were analyzed to identify common themes, findings, and expert views. The findings then were distilled into common themes.


The health impacts of floods are wide ranging, and depend on a number of factors. However, the health impacts of a particular flood are specific to the particular context. The immediate health impacts of floods include drowning, injuries, hypothermia, and animal bites. Health risks also are associated with the evacuation of patients, loss of health workers, and loss of health infrastructure including essential drugs and supplies. In the medium-term, infected wounds, complications of injury, poisoning, poor mental health, communicable diseases, and starvation are indirect effects of flooding. In the long-term, chronic disease, disability, poor mental health, and poverty-related diseases including malnutrition are the potential legacy.


This article proposes a structured approach to the classification of the health impacts of floods and a conceptual framework that demonstrates the relationships between floods and the direct and indirect health consequences.


Corresponding author

School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, Queensland 4059, Australia E-mail:


Hide All
1.Noji, E: Natural disasters. Crit Care Clin 1991;7(2):271292.
2.Malilay, J: Floods. In: Noji, EK (ed), The Public Health Consequences of Disasters. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997, pp 287301.
3.Diaz, JH: The public health impact of hurricanes and major flooding. J La State Med Soc 2004;156(3):145150.
4.EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database. Disaster Profiles. 2009. Available at Accessed 22 July 2009
5.US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Weather Service. Floods: the Awesome Power. 2002. Available at pdf. Accessed 28 August 2008.
6.National Weather Service. Weather glossary. Available at rnk/glossary.html. Accessed 29 August 2008.
7.Tapsell, SM, Tunstall, SM: “I wish I'd never heard of Banbury”: The relationship between ‘place’ and the health impacts from flooding. Health Place 2008;14(2):133154.
8.Waring, SC, Reynolds, KM, D'Souza, G, Arafat, RR: Rapid assessment of household needs in the Houston area after Tropical Storm Allison. Disaster Manage Response 2002;Sep:3-9.
9.Haines, A, Patz, JA: Health effects of climate change. JAMA 2004;291(1):99103.
10.Noji, EK: The public health consequences of disasters. Prehosp Disaster Med 2000;15(4):147157.
11.Davies, RJ, Swarbrick, RE, Evans, RJ, Huuse, M: Birth of a mud volcano: East Java, 29 May 2006. GSA Today 2007;17(2):49.
12.Favaro, A, Zaetta, , Colombo, G, Santonastaso, P: Surviving the Vajont disaster: Psychiatric consequences 36 years later. J Nerv Ment Dis 2004;192(3):227231.
13.Poole, J, Hogan, DE: Floods. In: DE, Hogan, Burstein, JL (eds): Disaster Medicine. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007, pp 214224.
14.French, J, Ing, R, Von Allmen, S, Wood, R: Mortality from flash floods: A review of National Weather Service Reports 1969-81. Public Health Rep 1983;98(6):584588.
15.Sylvia, HK: Flood. In GR, Ciottone (ed): Disaster Medicine. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier, 2006, pp 489491.
16.Coppola, DP: Introduction to International Disaster Management. Amsterdam, Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2007 pp xxiii, 547.
17.Cherniack, EP: The impact of natural disasters on the elderly. Am J Disaster Med 2008;3(3):133139.
18.Sommer, A, Mosley, WH: East Bengal cyclone of November, 1970. Epidemiological approach to disaster assessment. Lancet 1972;1(7759):10291036.
19.Choudhury, WA, Quraishi, FA, Haque, Z: Mental health and psychosocial aspects of disaster preparedness in Bangladesh. International Review of Psychiatry (Abingdon, England) 2006;18(6):529535.
20.Fothergill, A: Women in crisis: An ethnographic study of gender and class in a natural disaster. 2001, Dissertation. University of Colorado at Boulder: United States—Colorado.
21.Liu, A, Tan, H, Zhou, J, Li, S, Yang, T, Wang, J, Liu, J, Tang, X, Sun, Z, Wen, SW: An epidemiologic study of post-traumatic stress disorder in flood victims in Hunan China. Can J Psychiatry 2006;51(6):350354.
22.Rath, B, Donato, J, Duggan, A, Perrin, K, Bronfin, DR, Ratard, R, VanDyke, R, Magnus, M: Adverse health outcomes after Hurricane Katrina among children and adolescents with chronic conditions. J Health Care Poor Underserved 2007;18(2):405417.
23.Zoleta-Nantes, DB: Differential Vulnerability to Flooding in Metro Manila: Perspectives of Street Children, the Urban Poor and Residents of Wealthy Neighborhoods. 2000, Rutgers The State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick: United States—New Jersey.
24.M, Ahern, Kovat, S: The Health Impacts of Floods. In: Few, R, Matthies, F (eds): Floods Hazards and Health. Trowbridge: Cromwell Press, 2005, pp 2853.
25.Noji, E: Natural Disaster Management. In: PS, Auerback (ed): Wildness Medicine. St. Louis: Mosby, 2001, pp 16031621.
26.National Weather Service-Hydrologic Information Center. Flood Fatalities. 2008 Available at Accessed 29 August 2008.
27.Noji, E: Natural Disaster Management. In: P, Auerbach (ed): Wilderness Medicine: Management of Wilderness and Environmental Emergencies. St. Louis: Mosby, 1995, pp 644663.
28.Pan American Health Organization: Emergency Health Management after Natural Disaster: Scientific Publication 407. Washington DC: Pan American Health Organization, 1981.
29.Schnitzler, J, Benzler, J, Altmann, D, Mücke, I, Krause, G: Survey on the population's needs and the public health response during floods in Germany 2002. J Public Health Manag Pract 2007;13(5):461464.
30.Brewer, R, Morris, P, Cole, T: Hurricane-related emergency department visits in an inland area: An analysis of the public health impact of hurricane Hugo in North Carolina. Ann Emerg Med 1994;23(4):731736.
31.Axelrod, C, Killam, PP, Gaston, MH, Stinson, N: Primary health care and the Midwest flood disaster. Public Health Rep 1994;109(5):601605.
32.Schatz, JJ: Floods hamper health-care delivery in southern Africa. Lancet 2008; 371(9615):799800.
33.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Surveillance for illness and injury after hurricane Katrina—New Orleans, Louisiana, September 8-25, 2005. MMWR 2005;54(40):10181021.
34.Curry, MD, Larsen, PG, Mansfield, CJ, Leonardo, KD: Impacts of a Flood Disaster on an ambulatory pediatric clinic population. Clin Pediatr (Phila) 2001;40(10):571574.
35.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Current trends: Flood disasters and immunizations—California. MMWR 1983;32:171172,178.
36.Centers for Disease Control, Morbidity and mortality associated with hurricane Floyd-North Carolina, September-October 1999. MMWR 2000;49:369372.
37.Casteel, MJ, Sobsey, MD, Mueller, JP: Fecal contamination of agricultural soils before and after hurricane-associated flooding in North Carolina. J Environ Sci Health A, Tox Hazard Subst Environ Eng 2006;41(2):173184.
38.Pianietti, A, Sabatini, L, Bruscolini, F, Chiaverni, F, Cecchetti, G: Faecal contamination indicators, Salmonella, Vibrio and Aeromonas in water used for the irrigation of agricultural products. Epidemiol Infect 2004;132(2):231238.
39.Joyce, S: The dead zones: Oxygen-starved coastal waters. Environ Health Perspect 2000;108(3):A120125.
40.Cruz, AM, Steinberg, LJ, Luna, R: Identifying hurricane-induced hazardous material release scenarios in a petroleum refinery. Nat Hazards Rev 2001:2(4):203210.
41.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Carbon monoxide poisonning from hurricane-associated use of portable generators-Florida. MMWR 2005;54:697700.
42.Daley, WR, Shireley, L, Gilmore, R: A flood-related outbreak of carbon monoxide poisoning—Grand Forks, North Dakota. J Emerg Med 2001;21(3):249253.
43.Kunii, O, Nakamura, , Abdur, R, Wakai, S: The impact on health and risk factors of the diarrhoea epidemics in the 1998 Bangladesh floods. Public Health 2002;116(2):6874.
44.Western, KA: Epidemiologic surveillance after natural disaster. Washington, DC: PAHO/WHO, 1982.
45.Sur, D, Dutta, P, Nair, GB, Battacharya, SK: Severe cholera outbreak following floods in a northern disrict of West Bengal. Indian J Med Res 2000;112:178182.
46.Biswas, R, Pal, D, Mukhopadhyay, SP: A community based study on health impact of flood in a vulnerable district of West Bengal. India J Public Health 1999;43(2):8990. May - June 2010 Prehospital and Disaster Medicine 272 Health Impacts of Floods
47.Brandt, M, Brown, C, Burkhart, J, Burton, N, Cox-Ganser, J, Damon, S, Falk, H, Fridkin, S, Garbe, P, McGeehin, M, Morgan, J, Page, E, Rao, C, Redd, S, Sinks, T, Trout, D, Wallingford, K, Warnock, D, Weissman, D: Mold prevention strategies and possible health effects in the aftermath of hurricanes and major floods. MMWR Recomm Rep (RR8, Suppl. S):127.
48.Anonymous: Flood damage and mold after Katrina. Environment 2006;48(9):44.
49.Riggs, MA, Rao, CY, Brown, CM, Van Sickle, D, Cummings, KJ, Dunn, KH, Deddens, JA, Ferdinands, J, Callahan, D, Moolenaar, RL, Pinkerton, LE: Resident cleanup activities, characteristics of flood-damaged homes and airborne microbial concentrations in New Orleans, Louisiana, October 2005. Environ Res 2008;106(3):401409.
50.Schwab, KJ, Gibson, KE, Williams, DL, Kulbicki, KM, Lo, CP, Mihalic, JN Breysse, PN, Curriero, FC, Geyh, AS: Microbial and chemical assessment of regions within New Orleans, LA impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Environ Sci Technol 2007;41(7):24012406.
51.Ussher, J: Philippine flood disaster. J R Nav Med Serv 1973;59(2):8183.
52.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and mortality associated with Hurricane Floyd-Northan Carolina, September-October 1999. MMWR 2000;49(23):518.
53.Diaz, JH: The impact of hurricanes and flooding disasters on hymenopterid-inflicted injuries. Am J Disaster Med 2007;2(5):257269.
54.Reacher, M, McKenzie, K, Lane, C, Nichols, T, Kedge, I, Iversen, A, Hepple, P, Walter, T, Laxton, C, Simpson, J, Lewes Flood Action Recovery Team: Health impacts of flooding in Lewes: a comparison of reported gastrointestinal and other illness and mental health in flooded and non-flooded households. Commun Dis Public Health 2004;7(1):5663.
55.Phifer, K, Kaniasty, K, Norris, F: The impact of natural disaster on the health of older adults: A multi-wave prospective study. J Health Soc Behav 1988;29:6578.
56.Stimpson, J: Disaster, well-being, and sense of control: Testing a reciprocal path in the stress process model. 2004, The University of Nebraska-Lincoln: United States—Nebraska.
57.Verger, P, Rotily, M, Hunault, C, Brenot, J, Baruffol, E, Bard, D: Assessment of exposure to a flood disaster in a mental-health study. J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol 2003;13(6):436442.
58.Chae, EH, Kim, Tong Won, Rhee, SJ, Henderson, TD: Impact of flooding on the mental health of affected people in South Korea. Community Ment Health J 2005;41(6):633645.
59.Norris, FH, Murphy, AD, Baker, CK, Perilla, JL: Postdisaster PTSD over four waves of a panel study of Mexico's 1999 flood. J Trauma Stress 2004;17(4):283292.
60.Axelrod, C, Killam, PP, Gaston, MH, Stinson, N: Primary health care and the Midwest flood disaster. Public Health Rep 1994;109(5):601605.
61.Gerrity, E, Flynn, B: Mental Health Consequences of Disasters. In: E, Noji (ed): The Public Health Consequences of Disasters. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997, pp 101121.
62.Bokszczanin, A: PTSD symptoms in children and adolescents 28 months after a flood: Age and gender differences. J Trauma Stress 2007;20(3):347351.
63.Rashid, SF, Michaud, S: Female adolescents and their sexuality: Notions of honour, shame, purity and pollution during the floods. Disasters 2000;24(1):5470.
64.Parker, D, Thompson, P: Floods in Africa: Vulnerability, Impacts and Mitigation. In: D, Parker (ed): Floods. London: Routledge, 2000, pp 188203.
65.Wisner, B, Blaikie, P, Cannon, T, Davis, I: At Risk: Natural Hazards, People's Vulnerability and Disasters. London: Routledge, 2004.
66.Parker, D: Introduction to Floods and Flood Management. In: D, Parker (ed): Floods. London: Routledge, 2000, pp 339.
67.del Ninno, C, Lundberg, M: Treading Water: The long-term impact of the 1998 flood on nutrition in Bangladesh. Econ Hum Biol 2005;3(1):6796.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Health Impacts of Floods

  • Weiwei Du (a1), Gerard Joseph FitzGerald (a2), Michele Clark (a2) and Xiang-Yu Hou (a3)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.