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Disaster-related fatalities among US citizens traveling abroad

Robert Partridge, MD, MPH, David Bouslough, MD, MPH, Lawrence Proano, MD


Objective: To describe the locations and risk of death associated with natural disaster fatalities for US citizens traveling abroad.
Design, setting, and participants: A retrospective database review of US citizen disaster deaths occurring worldwide.
Interventions: None.
Main outcome measures: Information on fatalities due to disasters was abstracted from the US Department of State Web site reporting deaths of US citizens abroad by non-natural causes from October 2002 through June 2012. The main outcome measures were the frequency of disaster deaths and countries where disasters occurred. Descriptive statistics and rates were used to evaluate the study data.
Results: There were 7,963 total non-natural deaths of US citizens traveling abroad during the study period. Of these, 163 (2.0 percent) were disasterrelated deaths, involving 19 disaster events in 15 countries. Only two disaster-related events resulted in more than two deaths of US travelers—the 2010 earthquake in Haiti causing 121 fatalities (74.2 percent of disaster deaths), and the 2004 tsunami in Thailand causing 22 fatalities (13.5 percent of disaster deaths).The approximate annual mean death rate for US citizen travelers as a result of disaster events is 0.27 deaths/1 million travelers, compared with 1.4 deaths/1 million residents due to disaster annually within the United States.
Conclusions: The risk of disaster-related fatality is low for US citizens traveling abroad. Although disaster- related death among travelers is unpredictable, during a period of almost 10 years, there was only one reported death due to disaster in the five countries most frequently visited by US travelers. Further investigation may identify population-, seasonal-, country-, or location-specific risks from which prevention strategies can be developed.


disaster, fatalities, US citizens, abroad

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