CHAPEL HILL, N.C., April 28 (UPI) -- Child-abuse injuries increased after a big storm, North Carolina researchers said, warning officials to watch for similar injuries after natural disasters.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina looked into the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd, which resulted in 52 deaths and $6 billion in damage when it hit the region in 1999. Much of the damage was from flooding caused by 20 inches of rain over eastern North Carolina.
Researchers, in a release from the university, said parental stress and weakened social supports may have led to increased reports of brain injuries in young children. Such injuries occur when a small child is violently shaken.
The study found 37 cases of severe head injuries to children in the worst-hit 16 North Carolina counties after Hurricane Floyd. The other 84 counties had 20.
"Our conclusion was that families are vulnerable to an elevated risk of inflicted and non-inflicted child traumatic brain injury following a disaster," said researcher Dr. Heather Keenan.
"To the extent possible, vulnerable families should receive additional support -- both immediately after a disaster and during the recovery period."
A report on the study appears in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.