From Escherichia coli to flesh-eating bacteria, floodwaters are a health nightmare

From Escherichia coli to flesh-eating bacteria, floodwaters are a health nightmare

A man walks on a flooded street in the Orlovista neighborhood after Hurricane Ian on October 1, 2022 in Orlando, Florida.

Hurricane Ian hit Florida as a Category 4 hurricane in late September, bringing torrential rain and a storm surge that left much of coastal and central Florida underwater. But while the immediate risks involve drowning and injury, an invisible threat may soon afflict some people who come into contact with the water: flesh-eating bacteria.

After the storm, coastal Florida saw a spike in infections Vibrio vulnificusIt is a flesh-eating bacterium. People often catch them from uncooked seafood, but they can also survive in warm, brackish waters. According to the Florida Department of Health websiteThe state has seen 64 confirmed cases of flesh-eating bacteria so far this year, with 11 deaths. That’s nearly double the cases reported in 2021. Lee County, which contains hard-hit Fort Myers, has confirmed 28 cases and four deaths as of Oct. 21.

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Flesh-eating bacteria are one of the many health risks that accompany floodwaters. Streets, roads and homes flooded polluted water that threaten residents and emergency responders. Gastrointestinal diseases and skin infections often rise after flood events.

Other floods in recent history have also led to a sharp rise in disease. a 2019 تقرير Report That studied floods in Iran, it also looked at other major flood events around the world, including the 1988 floods in Sudan that led to a rise in hepatitis A infections, caused by contaminated sewage.

Brian Labus, assistant professor at the University of Nevada School of Public Health, explained that contaminants in floodwaters may vary depending on where you are. Urban centers may be more likely to deal with sewage, while rural areas may see animal waste, Fertilizer, or pesticide runoff.

“The diseases we see most often from sewage are infections of the gastrointestinal tract, things like norovirus, or salmonella, E. coli,” he said. “You get sick from these things usually from swallowing. It will be on your hands…it could be covered in bacteria, which you can then eat a sandwich or eat something to drink and end up swallowing.” [the bacteria]. “

Pollutants in water also depend on the level of damage to local infrastructure, such as chemical treatment plants and wastewater treatment facilities. Oil spills can also spread, and if oil-contaminated flood water enters the home, the fumes can become contaminated. indoor air And it leads to various health effects, including damage to the nervous and respiratory systems.

During Hurricane Ian, a water treatment plant off Interstate 27 reported a leak of more than 2,000 gallons of sodium hypochlorite, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The chemical is a harsh disinfectant that causes blisters, burns on the skin, and even eye damage. The damage also led to the discharge of sewage into some flood waters and waterways in the state. In Brevard County, floods caused more than 357,000 gallons of waste to flow from manholes and onto beaches, I mentioned Florida today.

As floods become more widespread and severe, areas unaccustomed to flooding may not be known to boost places such as gas stations, sewage systems or chemical treatment facilities.

“Whether it’s from a storm surge or just massive amounts of rain, there is no sewage system on the planet that can take this kind of blow without some kind of overflow,” said Nathan Gardner Andrews, chief advocacy officer for the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, Tell Bloomberg advance this month. “As storms intensify, you will unfortunately see more accidents as systems get flooded.”

Beomkesh Talukdar, a public health researcher at the University of York, explained that many gastrointestinal infections and diseases caused by floodwaters tend to heal on their own. But if someone has allergies or a weakened immune system, that small infection can turn into a life-threatening emergency.

“Obviously, if there is a flood, the health care system is disrupted. You cannot expect an ambulance at that point.” Pharmacies will also be closed. In Canada and the United States, we don’t always keep essential nonprescription medicines at home. My suggestion is to keep this type of primary care medicine. “

Talukder especially recommended keeping pain relievers and fever reducers such as acetaminophen or aspirin at home, especially if you know a potential storm or flooding is possible. Pharmacies also have over-the-counter anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea medications, which can help avoid dehydration.

Both he and Wears recommended storing as much water as possible to ensure access to clean drinking water after a storm. Additional water can also be used for hand washing – this is especially important for first responders and anyone who has no choice but to come into contact with flood water. Anyone who has to go into flood waters to help others should cover their skin as much as possible. If they have any cuts or scrapes, these wounds should be cleaned as best as possible and monitored for signs of infection. Any clothing must come into contact with flood water Wash with hot water and disinfectant.

Even if a person is not infected while in contact with flood water, many viruses and bacteria can be ingested. Medical professionals often recommend that people who have been exposed to flood water make sure they are prepared History on their snapshotssuch as tetanus and hepatitis vaccines.

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