WASHINGTON - Shelters housing Hurricane Katrina refugees will need medicines ranging from antibiotics to insulin to tetanus shots.
Treating hurricane-related wounds, infections that can spread within crowded shelters and the underlying medical conditions of people cut off from their usual care are among rescue workers' top health concerns.
Drug companies have asked the government for a list of most-needed medicines so they can begin to ship in supplies. Already planned are donations of insulin, which many diabetics need daily to survive but which must be kept cool - meaning even refugees who managed to salvage some supplies may not be able to use them after days with no electricity.
Other medicines commonly used for flood refugees, according to Stanford University emergency medicine specialist Dr. Eric A. Weiss, are:
-Antibiotic ointments, such as Polysporin, to prevent infection in cuts caused by debris, especially on the feet, legs and hands.
-Tetanus shots, for people who sustained cuts or other wounds if they haven't had the vaccination within the last 10 years.
-Antibiotics, particularly cephalosporins such as Keflex. In particular, staph and strep infections are common in wounds and then can spread in crowded shelters. Respiratory infections are common, too, but antibiotics usually aren't needed. Most cases of diarrhea will be caused by viruses, but antibiotics are used for those with bloody diarrhea or other signs that the infection is caused by bacteria, such as E. coli.
-Rehydrating solutions, to give diarrhea patients the right mix of water and electrolytes; antidiarrheal agents such as immodium; and anti-nausea drugs such as phenergan.
-Pain medicines ranging from ibuprofen and acetaminophen to stronger Vicodin.
-Children's versions of painkillers, as well as the frequent pediatric antibiotic amoxicillin.
Beyond that starter kit, shelters will need medicines people use to treat common underlying medical conditions - such as blood pressure pills, blood-thinning warfarin, diabetes drugs, anti-seizure medicine for epilepsy.