INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana State Department of Health is reminding Hoosiers flooding can pose serious health risks such as exposure to water-borne diseases, drowning, and dangers associated with cleaning up flood-damaged areas.
State health officials recommend people wait until the floodwaters recede before beginning any clean up efforts. People can be severely injured due to slippery conditions, poor visibility, floating debris, or electrical shock. In addition, small cuts or scratches on the skin can make someone more susceptible to diseases like tetanus, E. coli, and other pathogens.
Some other safety tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are:
· Do not drive through flooded roads, as cars can be swept away or lose power.
· NEVER touch a downed power line or anything in contact with one.
· Listen to announcements in local media (radio, television or newspaper) to find out if it's safe to use tap water, and follow instructions regarding water.
· If you are not sure if water is safe to use, boil water before you use it for anything, including brushing teeth, cooking, drinking, or bathing.
· Throw away any food that may have been touched by floodwater.
· Use battery-powered lanterns and flashlights, instead of candles, to prevent fires.
· Stoves, generators, lanterns, and gas ranges release dangerous carbon monoxide gas and should always be used outdoors, far away from windows, doors and vents.
For more information, visit the CDC Web site at: emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanesor call 1-800-CDC-INFO.
Untreated sanitary waste can end up in waterways and on streets when heavy rain overwhelms sewer systems and treatment plants. Wells and cisterns may also be affected. Wells that are located in a flooded area should be assumed to be contaminated. Health officials recommend people discontinue use of the well water until it can be cleaned and then inspected by a professional well contractor. For more information on sanitation after a flood, visit the State Department of Health Web site at: www.in.gov/isdh/files/flood_information.pdf.
Once floodwater recedes, remaining standing water on properties is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus. After it is safe to start clean up efforts, state health officials recommend people dispose of old tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or other unused containers that can hold water; repair failed septic systems; keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed; and clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains. Hoosiers are urged to contact their local health department if they are concerned about mosquitoes in their area. When outdoors, people should apply insect repellent containing DEET, Picardin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to clothes and exposed skin to protect themselves from being bitten by a mosquito.
Individuals exposed to floodwaters should wash their hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water. For household cleaning after floodwater contamination, disinfect all surfaces. A bleach solution of ¼-cup chlorine bleach to one gallon of water works well.
Some tips for safely cleaning up a home or business after the floodwaters recede include:
- Turn off the electricity.
- Clean and dry wet light fixtures before turning the electricity back on.
- Items that cannot be salvaged after a flood and must be thrown away include wet ceiling tiles, paper products, baseboards, gypsum board (also known as dry wall), and insulation.
- Carpets may be saved by wet vacuuming, shampooing, and making certain the carpet is completely dry.
- Mattresses or other large items soaked with floodwater will probably have to be discarded. Some mattresses can be salvaged after disinfecting and air-drying.
- Wipe wood and metal studs with a bleach solution and allow to air dry.
- If possible, open windows and doors during the clean-up process and leave them open for at least 24 hours.
Health officials also remind Hoosiers to prepare well in advance of a flood emergency. The State Department of Health recommends that residents stockpile at least a 72-hour supply of clean water, food, and medicine for every member of the household.
To learn more about staying healthy during a flood, visit the Indiana State Department of Health Web site at www.statehealth.IN.gov.
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