As flooding continues in parts of North Carolina and recedes in others, public health officials are recommending caution, particularly while people return to their homes in some areas to start the process of debris removal and cleanup in the wake of Hurricane Florence.
"It is important to stay vigilant against all the hazards that we’ll be facing that are associated with flooding, wind damage and mosquitoes," said State Health Director Elizabeth Tilson, M.D., MPH. "While cleaning up outdoors, be sure you are up-to-date on your tetanus vaccine and avoid contact with flood waters if you can."
Key Public Health Tips Include:
- If you lost power, do not use gas powered generators and other outdoor grills/camp stoves in enclosed spaces because of the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- If you have flooding near your home, be careful touching electrical equipment.
- Throw away food that may have contacted flood or storm water, perishable foods that have not been refrigerated properly and food with an unusual odor, color or texture. Unsafe food can make you sick, even if it looks, smells and tastes normal. When in doubt, throw it out.
- Eating or drinking anything contaminated by flood water can cause diarrheal disease, such as E.coli or Salmonella infection.
- Do not drive or walk through flood water. Most of the storm related deaths are from people driving on flooded roads.
Flood Water Safety:
- Practice good hygiene after contact with flood waters. Make sure to clean your hands with soap and water before preparing food or eating.
- Do not allow children to play in flood water. Wash children’s hands with soap and water frequently (always before meals).
- Wash toys or food preparation surfaces that have been in contact with flood water with a bleach solution and allow to air dry.
- Prepare chlorine bleach solutions fresh daily (1 cup bleach in 5 gallons of water); keep out of reach of children; never mix bleach solution with other cleaners.
- Apply bleach solution to surface for at least five minutes.
- Rinse all surfaces intended for food or mouth contact with clean water before use.
- If you’re on municipal water, follow the guidance of your provider
- If you’re on well water and extensive flooding has occurred, do not drink the water and do not turn on the electricity to your pump until flood waters recede. Use your water reserves and bottled water until your well has been disinfected and your water has been tested.
- The NC State Laboratory of Public Health assembled bacteria test kits in preparation for this storm. Contact your local health department’s private well program for testing.
Large populations of mosquitoes can emerge days to weeks after heavy rains or flooding. Most are ‘nuisance’ mosquitoes, but some can carry viruses that may cause illnesses such as La Crosse encephalitis, West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis. To protect yourself from vector-borne diseases:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants while outdoors.
- Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET or an equivalent when outside and use caution when applying to children.
Wounds and Tetanus
While cleaning up outdoors, be sure you are up-to-date on your tetanus vaccine. Avoid contact with flood waters if you have an open wound and keep open wounds as clean as possible by washing well with soap and clean water and covering with a waterproof bandage to reduce chance of infection.
- For minor injuries, prompt first-aid can accelerate healing and prevent infection. Wash hands with soap and water before and after providing first aid for a wound to help prevent infection. More serious wounds should be evaluated by qualified medical professionals and an age-appropriate tetanus vaccine given, if needed.
- Tetanus vaccines are recommended for people of all ages. After a series of tetanus shots during childhood and adolescence, adults need a tetanus booster shot every 10 years. To ensure protection, a person with a puncture or deep wound should get a tetanus booster if it has been five or more years since their last tetanus vaccine.
- Diarrhea prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/disease/diarrhea-evac.html
- Disinfecting certain nonporous toys: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/index.html.
- Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites: https://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/prevent-mosquito-bites.html
- Prevent mosquito-borne diseases: https://epi.dph.ncdhhs.gov/
- Tetanus vaccinations: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/disease/tetanus.html
- Wound care after a disaster: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/woundcare.html