The Medical Hazards of Demonstrating

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In news reports released earlier this week, Libyan authorities confirmed that at least 61 people had died in the capital city of Tripoli during demonstrations against the long entrenched government of Moammar Gadhafi.  In addition, over 100 people have been reported killed in the eastern cities of Benghazi, and  Beyida  There are even reports that soldiers and police have been executed for refusing to kill fellow Libyans.  

Demonstrations in recent weeks have also led to deaths in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and a host of other countries in the Mideast. Details may be reviewed on the CNN website.  Mortality figures make the headlines, but there are untold numbers of others who have suffered significant injuries and illnesses as a result of participating in anti-government gatherings and rioting.  Military personnel, police, and other pro-government forces have used a variety of different techniques for crowd control, including firearms, tear gas, water cannons, and batons.  In addition to penetrating wounds from firearms, a number of other serious injuries such as blunt head trauma, severe breathing problems, ruptured abdominal organs, open fractures, and spinal injuries have resulted from the use of excessive force against demonstrators. 

Anyone traveling to the Mideast should check to see whether or not the State Department has issued a travel warning for their destination. Travel Warnings are issued when dangerous conditions compel the State Department to recommend that Americans either avoid or carefully consider the risk of travel to that country, or when they believe that the U.S. Consulate or Embassy may not be able to assist American citizens who encounter difficulty. The countries affected are listed on the Department’s website.

Finally, it is incumbent upon any traveler to the Mideast to avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings of protesters, and to follow the advice of local authorities. Visitors are advised to exercise caution and restraint, and to avoid unnecessary travel in the later hours of the day and at night.  It is also important to check with their travel insurer.  Some policies exclude coverage in countries where travel advisories have been issued, or for injuries and illnesses sustained as a result of participation in a demonstration or riot.

Photo by Peta-de-Aztlan.

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