General earthquake injury
statistics based only on statistics from hospital emergency
departments tend to overestimate the number of people seeking
hospital treatment for earthquake-related problems since they also
include individuals who seek treatment for medical complaints that
are not earthquake-related.
On the other hand, looking only at hospitals and the problems they
treat will likely underestimate the total health impact of an
earthquake since such information does not take into account other
settings in which people seek and receive treatment.
These settings include (but are not limited to) community
clinics, urgent care centers, and Red Cross and Salvation Army
shelters. Of course, it is
also difficult to obtain documentation on those patients whose
injuries are self-treated.
According to Durkin, injury statistics based solely on data
collected from hospitals may account for only 40% of the number of
injuries that actually occurred (e.g., the actual number of injuries
in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake may have been as high as 9,500
instead of the officially reported 3,800) (31).