Health effects of the 2021 flooding in Limburg
Keywords:floods, Netherlands, COVID-19, stress
Heavy rainfall caused flooding of the Meuse River in Limburg, the Netherlands, July 2021. This paper presents a descriptive overview of short-term and intermediate phase health impacts that occurred within a month after the floods, focused on (perceived) general health complaints and COVID-19 incidence. Data were collected through a questionnaire distributed to health professionals and through the SARS-CoV-2 National surveillance programme.
Most questionnaire respondents reported an increase in psychological complaints such as fear, stress, and depression among their patients directly and one month after the floods. Elderly and children were mentioned as specific vulnerable groups for health effects. The respondents noted a clear relationship between the extent to which people were affected and the occurrence and severity of the health complaints. More SARS-CoV-2 was detected in Limburg around the time of the flooding, however this coincided with the fourth wave of cases. The increased COVID-19 risk could not be attributed independently to evacuations and other circumstances related to the flooding.
The floods and subsequent disruptions have, according to health professionals, led to higher numbers of reported psychological symptoms and may have caused an increase in the number of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the region. Long-term health impacts of the floods have yet to be studied but would have to consider potential secondary effects in addition to mental health and COVID-19.