Floodwater poses health risks to people, pets

January 11, 2016

In the rush to protect homes and businesses from flood waters, itís important to also watch out for health risks. Flood waters can contain raw sewage and hazardous chemicals and lead to intestinal illness if ingested.

Keep children and pets away from flood water inside the home. Wear rubber boots, gloves and goggles when cleaning up flooded areas.

After the cleanup, wash hands with soap and warm water that has been previously boiled. Clothes should be washed in hot water and detergent, separately from clothes that arenít contaminated. Use a laundromat if the waste water system in the area has been compromised.

Open wounds and rashes can lead to infections if exposed to flood waters. Use waterproof bandages and thoroughly wash any areas that were exposed to flood waters. Health officials recommend updated vaccinations for tetanus and diphtheria for anyone exposed to raw sewage.

Raw sewage in flood waters can carry bacteria, viruses and parasites. Those that can cause intestinal illness or gastroenteritis include strains of E. coli, salmonella, shigella and enterovirus. The main symptom of these illnesses is diarrhea, and those at higher risk of developing severe disease are the youngest and oldest in the community and people with compromised immune systems.

After the waters recede, mold can become another health concern. Remove and throw away any drywall or insulation that has been touched by flood waters or sewage. Mattresses, carpets, carpet pads, upholstered furniture, stuffed animals, pillows, books, paper products and anything else that canít be washed and disinfected should be tossed out if they get wet. 

Hard surfaces including flooring and countertops should be thoroughly cleaned with hot water and detergent. All toys should be disinfected with a bleach solution.



McClatchy-Tribune Information Services