Word arrives from our man in Australia about long-term health problems being suffered by rescue workers involved in the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. Dr Wei Qiang Zhang from the Beijing Military General Hospital and Dr George Liu from Latrobe University in Melbourne led a team of Chinese and Australian researchers who looked at the after effects on 1,187 soldiers deployed to the rescue and relief operations. They found a high incidence of health problems including fatigue and depression as well as physical ailments such as skin and respiratory problems and abdominal pain and diarrhea. The results are reported in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
Liu makes the point that soldiers, because of their military training, are in better shape to deal with rescue efforts than civilian volunteers, who, he believes, are much more likely to suffer mental or physical harm in such circumstances as they lack the professional training to cope with the stress of long hours and arduous often dangerous conditions. However, he also notes that the soldiers fared worse than other professionals such as fire-fighters and Red Cross workers because they were less well equipped, lacking in particular protective clothing and masks.