As flood waters recede and cleanup begins across Arkansas, it’s important to be aware of potential health risks. Flood water and standing water each pose various risks, including infectious diseases, chemical hazards and injuries.
Charles Jennings, M.D., of Baptist Health-Fort Smith shares information to keep you and your family safe.
Q: What health risks are commonly associated with flood water?
A: Flood water and standing water can contain infectious organisms such as E. coli, salmonella, Hepatitis A and tetanus. In most cases, sickness associated with flood conditions is caused by ingesting contaminated water or food. However, tetanus can be acquired from contaminated water or soil entering the body through cuts or wounds.
Q: How can I prevent infections or illness while working in flood water?
A: It’s very important to wear protective, waterproof clothing and gear such as goggles, gloves and boots. Anyone who comes in contact with flood water should wash their hands with clean water and soap as soon as they are done and especially before eating. Make sure any cuts or open wounds you have are properly covered with waterproof bandages. Clean the wound with clean water and soap after any exposure to flood water. Items such as clothing, shoes or children’s toys that come in contact with flood water should be thoroughly cleaned or discarded.
Q: Should I get a tetanus shot?
A: Assisting in the clean-up efforts could put you at risk for injury such as cuts or scrapes that could become infected by flood waters contaminated with the bacteria that causes tetanus. Adolescents or adults who have received a tetanus-diphtheria (Td) and tetanus-diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) shot within the last 10 years do not need to be vaccinated again. However, if you are unsure talk to your physician about whether you may need a Td booster shot.