The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Public Health is urging precautions both during and after the possible storm-related weather from Hurricane Florence. While immediate concerns include heavy rain, significant flooding and power outages, the threats from clean up can produce long-term effects of illness and injury.
“Disease-producing bacteria are often carried by flood water and sewage and can remain alive and dangerous for long periods of time on items exposed to flood water or sewage,” cautioned Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health.
After the flood waters have receded:
1. Before beginning any clean up, make sure electricity and gas valves are turned off.
2. Follow the instructions of the utility companies relative to restoration of gas and electrical services.
3. Before entering any house or building that has been flooded, check for foundation cracks or shifting of the foundation.
4. Drain or pump water out of flooded basements. (Don’t pump out basements too soon after flood water has receded as the water-soaked ground could cause the collapse of basement walls.)
5. Hose down all floors, walls and ceilings with clean water. This should be done before the surfaces dry, if possible.
6. Scrub all surfaces using soap or detergent and clean hot water.
7. Disinfect surfaces with a solution of bleach and clean water (four tablespoons of bleach per one gallon of water).
To protect your health while doing flood clean up:
• While working, keep hands away from mouth and face.
• Disinfect all wounds and cover them immediately.
• Wear protective clothing (rubber boots, rubber gloves and eye protection) and avoid exposure to any broken skin or wounds.
• Wash hands often using clean water and soap.
• Discard items that cannot be cleaned and dried.
• Clothes worn during flood clean up should be washed in hot water and detergent separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.
• Get a tetanus shot if you have not had a booster.
“Staying current on tetanus immunizations is important. Any broken skin exposed to flood water could be dangerous for a person who is behind on their tetanus boosters or is unsure of their booster status,” said Dr. Gupta. “Talk with your doctor or your health department if you are unsure if you need one.”