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Alaska News

Nov. 30 earthquake led to more than 350 ER visits but only one hospitalization

  • Author: Madeline McGee
  • Updated: December 18, 2018
  • Published December 18, 2018

Emergency rooms across Southcentral Alaska saw more than 350 earthquake-related visits in the week following the Nov. 30 quake, according to a report released Tuesday by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

People stand outside Providence Alaska Medical Center after the quake. An earthquake caused damage in the Anchorage area on November 30, 2018. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Of the 361 people who visited emergency rooms, about 45 percent were there for injuries caused by the earthquake, like falls, impacts of falling objects and damage to muscles and connective tissues, the report said. Other common reasons for visiting included “mental health concerns, neurological symptoms, and people seeking assistance with pre-existing medical issues because their care was interrupted by the earthquake.” A smaller portion of visits were for chest pains and digestive problems.

The report aggregates data from the emergency departments at the Alaska Native Medical Center, Providence Alaska Medical Center and Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage, the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, and Central Peninsula Hospital and Providence Seward Medical Center on the Kenai Peninsula. It did not include data from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Hospital, however.

Anna Frick, a research analyst with the DHSS Epidemiology Section, said that because this is the first time the agency has used real-time patient data to track disaster injuries, her team wasn’t sure what they might find. They were interested in the minimal extent of the damage, she said.

“There definitely could have been a lot more injuries,” Frick said.

Frick said that more serious injuries related to the earthquake may come to light as information becomes available.

Most of the ER visits — more than 200 — happened on the day of the earthquake, with the remainder tapering off over the next week. Of all the people who visited an emergency room during that week, only one person was hospitalized, although Frick said due to privacy laws she wasn’t able to say what concern that patient experienced . No deaths have been identified.

About 65 percent of those who went to an emergency room were women, but it’s unclear why there was such a gender imbalance, the report said. Five visits were for issues related to pregnancy.

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