Floodwaters Can Pose Serious Health Risks
The Pasco County Health Department warns residents of the possibility of contamination, and reminds parents not to let children play in the standing waters left behind by Tropical Storm Debby.
As flooding from Tropical Storm Debby continues throughout Pasco County and the surrounding Bay area, the Pasco County Health Department is urging residents to take precautions when it comes to floodwater exposure.
Though skin contact with floodwaters may not, by itself, pose a serious health risk, health hazards are a concern when waters become contaminated. Floodwaters may contain fecal material, associated bacteria, viruses, and other pollutants, a health department press release stated.
The Pasco County Health Department recommends the following precautions to prevent possible illness from flood waters:
- Do not allow children to play in floodwaters.
- Do not wade through standing water. If you do, bathe and put on clean clothes as soon as possible.
- Basic hygiene is critical. Wash hands contaminated with flood waters with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected before preparing or eating food, after toilet use, after participating in flood cleanup activities, and after handling articles contaminated with flood water or sewage.
- Do not eat or drink anything that has been contaminated with flood waters.
- Avoid contact with flood waters if you have open cuts or sores. If you have any open cuts or sores and cannot avoid contact with flood waters, keep them as clean as possible by washing well with soap to control infection. If a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, seek immediate medical attention. Residents who sustain lacerations and/or puncture wounds and have not had a tetanus vaccination within the past 10 years require a tetanus booster.
- If there is a backflow of sewage into your house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup. Remove and discard absorbent household materials, such as wall coverings, cloth, rugs, and sheetrock. Clean walls and hard-surfaced floors with soap and water and disinfect with a solution of 1/4 cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Thoroughly disinfect food contact surfaces (counter tops, refrigerators, tables) and areas where small children play. Wash all linens and clothing in hot water. Air dry larger items in the sun and spray them with a disinfectant.
If you are on a septic system, and your plumbing is functioning slowly or sluggishly, you should:
- Conserve water as much as possible; the less water used the less sewage the septic tank must process. Minimize use of your washing machine. Consider utilizing a laundromat. Rental of a portable toilet for a temporary period may be another option.
- Do not have the septic tank pumped out. Exceptionally high water tables might crush a septic tank that was pumped dry. If the problem is high ground water because of the rains and flooding, pumping the tank will not solve the problem.
- If you cannot use your plumbing without creating a sanitary nuisance, such as discharging sewage on the ground, consider moving temporarily to a new location until conditions improve.
- Do not have the septic tank and drainfield repaired until the ground has had an opportunity to dry. Often systems are completely functional when unsaturated conditions return. Any repair must be permitted and inspected by your county health department.