Mexican earthquakes: U-M experts available to discuss

September 21, 2017
Nardy Baeza Bickel


A 7.1 earthquake struck central Mexico Tuesday, shortly after an 8.1 earthquake struck the country near its southern border with Guatemala. The country was also affected by Hurricane Irma. University of Michigan’s experts can discuss.

Rafael Meza, associate professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, is originally from Mexico. He can talk about the infrastructure and history of response to past earthquakes and hurricanes in the country, as well as potential public health challenges the country might face after being hit by back-to-back tropical storms as well as the earthquake.
“It is a challenging situation since the continuing crises can saturate the health and emergency response systems as resources and personnel get stretched having to tackle multiple events,” he said. “If there are many victims and displaced individuals, like during the 1985 earthquake when thousands of Mexicans lost their homes, then additional efforts must be made to ensure their health and well-being, particularly if living in temporary (or long-term) camps or refugee areas.

“Besides providing them with access to food and a place to live while their homes are rehabilitated, efforts must be made to prevent the propagation of gastrointestinal, respiratory and other communicable diseases due to crowding and unsanitary conditions. Unfortunately, the consequences of these natural events will be felt for many years. And the early response needs to be followed with long term plans of reconstruction and rehabilitation of victims and their families.”

Contact: 206-579-5308 (cell),

Ben van der Pluijm is an earthquake geologist and professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

“Another unusual and large earthquake happened in Mexico, much closer to Mexico City, similar depth, but somewhat smaller,” he said. “Tuesday’s quake behavior is similar (normal faulting), but it is not an aftershock.”

Contact: 734-678-1397,

Joseph Eisenberg, chair and professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health, studies infectious disease epidemiology.

“Waterborne diseases are always a concern after any disaster that has the potential to displace large populations and impact water and sanitation infrastructure,” he said.

Contact: 734-615-1625,