Objective: To assess the pattern of diseases in a natural disaster, which are not necessarily a direct consequence of the event but can impact on the way health assistance is to be provided.
Methods: Cross-sectional, record-based study in the International Committee of the Red Cross field hospital in Aceh, Indonesia, established immediately after the tsunami in 2004. Patients who presented to hospital from January 15 to 31, and whose diagnoses were available, were included in the study.
Results: One thousand one hundred and eighty-eight residents of Aceh participated. 43.5% of the diagnoses was chronic diseases. The odds of chronic vs. acute diseases increased by 16.4% per day up to January 23 [95% confidence interval (CI): 7.8-25.6%] and decreased thereafter by 13.1% (95% CI: 6.6-19.1%) per day. The odds of acute diseases were 34% lower among females than males (95% CI: 16-49%) and 4.3 times higher among children than the rest of the population (95% CI: 2.4-7.6). There were relatively few trauma cases among females and children.
Conclusions: Medical teams providing relief after acute disasters should be prepared to provide healthcare for chronic diseases too. A delay in the presentation of many acute conditions has implications for long-term health consequences of disasters, such as disability.