Severe weather season is here, and while that may mean thunderstorms, tornadoes and a lot of rain, we want to make sure everyone stays safe when flooding from those storm systems occur.
Flood water is not just a nuisance, it also can contain potentially dangerous materials, such as fecal matter from overflowing sewage systems, agricultural runoff and chemicals from industrial areas. Wading in flood waters can also be a cause of infection or result in a variety of injuries. Eating or drinking anything contaminated by flood water can cause diarrheal disease.
Follow these tips to stay healthy during and after the flood:
Flooding in your area
• Tune into local radio and TV stations to see if your area is under a boil alert for drinking water.
• Do not allow children to play in flood water areas.
• Practice good hygiene (wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer if soap is not available) after contact with flood waters. Wash children’s hands frequently (always before meals).
• Identify and throw away food that may not be safe to eat. Such items include food that has come into direct contact with flood waters and/or refrigerated foods when the power has been off for four or more hours.
• Disinfect food contact surfaces and utensils that have come into direct contact with flood waters using soap and clean warm water.
Cleaning your home after a flood
• Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected area.
• Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.
• Do not allow children to play with toys that have been contaminated by flood water and have not been disinfected.
• Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as, mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and most paper products).
• Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.
• Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.
• Help the drying process by using fans, air conditioning units, and dehumidifiers.
• After completing the cleanup, wash your hands with soap and warm water. Use water that has been boiled for one minute (allow the water to cool before washing your hands).
• Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.
• Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.
Always remember, vehicles do not provide adequate protection from flood waters. They can be swept away or may stall in moving water. Do not attempt to drive through flooded areas, especially when in doubt about the actual depth of the water. Appearances can be deceiving and it is not worth the risk.
Call the health department at 740-852-3065 for guidelines if you have a private water system or sewage treatment system impacted by flooding and/or if flooding has interrupted power to your private water system or sewage treatment system. Remedial action varies depending on the types of systems and the severity of the flooding.
Mary Ann Webb, R.S., MPH, is the health commissioner at the Madison County/London City Health District. She can be reached at 740-852-3065, ext. 1523.
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