After Texas Flooding, Health Hazards Emerge as Water Recedes

After Texas Flooding, Health Hazards Emerge as Water Recedes

(ABC News) – The floodwaters that have devastated thousands in Texas are now receding, but even in the aftermath, there can be a host of health hazards left behind.

Standing water can contain harsh chemicals picked up as waters washed over roads and other industrial areas, bacteria can infect open wounds, causing dangerous infections, and a host of infectious diseases including E.coli, norovirus and tetanus can be spread easily in areas with flood damage, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said that even as residents start to clean up, they face new health risks. Mold or debris left behind due to muddy water can exacerbate asthma or breathing problems.

“You can get mold growing up on things that you’re then trying to clear out,” Schaffner said.

As mud dries, it can turn into dust that affects the lungs, said Schaffner, who recommends wearing a surgical mask during clean-ups.

Anyone who had a wound exposed to floodwaters should seek medical attention to see whether they should get a tetanus shot, he said.

In addition to short-term problems, Schaffner said, there’s another hazard that could last long after the floodwaters recede. He said he’s concerned that standing water could mean in increase in the West Nile virus carried by mosquitoes, especially as summer approaches.

“All this floodwater is going to leave puddles and pockets of water that will be great breeding grounds of mosquitoes,” Schaffner said. “If there are a lot of mosquitoes, more mosquitoes will bite birds and then bite people,” spreading the virus.

A list of health risks associated with floodwaters can be found on the CDC website here.

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