Dangers Lurking in Floodwaters - Crime Clean AZ Dangers Lurking in Floodwaters - Crime Clean AZ

Dangers Lurking in Floodwaters

Dangers Lurking in Floodwaters

  • 24 Sep Off


Recently the deluge of storms in Phoenix created a chaotic situation in our beloved “Vally of the Sun.” Storm water filled culverts, streets, canals, yards, houses and yes, the few basements located in homes where the storms raged, were filled with storm water. The news stations videoed children and adults playing in storm water “ponds,”culverts and streets created by the storms.

Public health officials have long warned that children and adults should avoid wading in flood-created ponds and water basins because of the potential of cuts, injuries or infections from germ-infested waters. The muddied water can hide potential risks such as sharp objects that can puncture the skin or rocks and ditches that may cause people to lose their footing and strain a muscle or turn an ankle.

The less obvious risk is that water basins may carry germs such as E. coli, staphylococcus or tetanus. Although many state health departments characterize the risk of flood-related disease outbreaks as rare in the United States, public-health officials urge people to avoid exposure to floodwater.

“People often think of the injuries, but don’t think of the germs,”said Jesssica Rigler, bureau chief of epidemiology and disease control for the Arizona Department of Health Services. “There is all kinds of bacteria that may be swimming in there.” Rigler said the types of germs that may accumulate in water can vary based on the source of the runoff. Water that pools along a road near agricultural land will likely have different germs than a water-covered greenbelt that’s located near a suburban dog park.

She said the infection risk comes when a person with a cut or wound wades in the germ-filled water. “The best prevention is to stay out of the water,” said Rigler, who added that people who must cross water-covered lots should make sure to protect their skin with waterproof clothing.

Rigler said the Department of Health did not have any immediate reports of any flood related illnesses from monsoons this year. And hospital systems such as Banner Health didn’t report an increase in people seeking medical care from illnesses following the flood. The Department of Health recommends anyone who has been exposed to floodwater get a tetanus shot if they have not received one for the last five years.

Anyone with an open wound that is exposed to floodwater should rinse it with soap and clean water, keep it dry and cover it with a bandage. Signs of infection that require medical care can include pain, redness, swelling, warmth or fever.

Rigler also recommends that people monitor their properties for mosquitoes. Pooled water can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which may carry West Nile virus among other diseases.   The Union of Concerned Scientists said in a March 2012 that more than half of waterborne disease outbreaks in the United States occurred after heavy rainfall.

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