Japan Sees Surge in Illness After Tsunami

Aftershocks, radiation, factory stoppages—now there’s a new problem arising from last month’s tsunami and earthquake. Hospitals are seeing a surge in elderly patients with pneumonia, which doctors attribute to the cramped living conditions in the emergency shelters now housing tens of thousands of people. The overcrowding of the shelters—usually gymnasiums and public buildings—combined with the stress of the tsunami and poor oral hygiene due to lack of water, make the situation ripe for the spread of disease. Further compounding the threat of illness the fact that about 20 percent of Japan’s population is over 65 years old, and that proportion is even higher in the hard-hit northeast region of the country.