Major incidents affecting large numbers of people may increase the rate of acute cardiovascular events, even among those who are not directly involved in the incident. It is hypothesized that the MV Sewol ferry disaster (South Korea) would increase the incidence of cardiovascular events nation-wide.
Data on all adult patients (>18 years) who were diagnosed with acute cardiovascular events, including acute myocardial infarction (MI), angina, and cardiac arrhythmias, were extracted from the National Emergency Department Information System (NEDIS) from March 15 through June 17, during the years 2011-2014 (four weeks before to eight weeks after the event date). Poisson regression models were used to calculate the incidence rate ratios (IRRs) comparing the weekly changes in the occurrences of cardiovascular events from the week of the Sewol event (April 16-22, 2014) to eight weeks after the disaster (June 11-17, 2014), using the one-month period before Sewol as a reference period (March 15-April 15), adjusting for calendar years (years 2011-2014) and environmental factors.
During the study periods, cardiovascular events were identified in 73,823 patients. Compared to the reference period, the week of the Sewol disaster and the three weeks after the disaster showed a significant increase in the number of acute cardiovascular events, IRRs of 1.09 (95% CI, 1.03-1.15) and 1.08 (95% CI, 1.02-1.15), respectively (P <.01 for both). In particular, there was 21% increase in incidence of arrhythmia (IRR = 1.21; 95% CI, 1.02-1.44; P = .03) during the week of the Sewol disaster compared with the reference period.
This study showed a significant increase in the incidence of acute cardiovascular events during the week of, and the three weeks after, the Sewol ferry disaster in 2014. These additional cardiac emergencies may be triggered by emotional stressors related to the event, highlighting the public health importance of indirect exposure to a tragic catastrophe.
Kong SY, Song KJ, Shin SD, Ro YS. Cardiovascular events after the Sewol ferry disaster, South Korea. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2019;34(2):142–148