Flood Health Risks

By: Philip Stewart
By: Philip Stewart

June 28, 2006

The rising James River is causing more than just flooding concerns. The high water also brings with it numerous health dangers. The first thing people want to do after a flood is clean up the things they can see, like the mud or the water. However, it just might be the things that they can't see that can cause the most serious health problems.

As the clouds and rain move out of Central Virginia, areas like Scottsville, still have water left behind to deal with.

"The river right now is rising again," said Tim Karr, the Levee Superintendent in Scottsville. "It's just over 19 and a half feet."

Besides just leaving behind a mess to clean up, homes and businesses with flood damage, can become health hazards. If an area stays wet for more than a day or two, experts say bacteria and mold can thrive. Some people are more sensitive to it than others.

"Generally children with asthma, children with eczema, children with Rhinitis or nasal congestion usually have a lot of allergies," explained Dr. David Dross of Washington Health Center. "Adults with asthma and these respiratory problems tend not to be quite as allergic."

Doctors say proper cleanup with protective gear is essential. They recommend wearing a mask, because inhaling mold spores can cause dangerous allergic reactions.

"If a person is susceptible, it can occur in the lung and cause asthma, bronchitis, and coughing," said Dr. Gross.

Standing water outdoors poses another problem. After a flood, it is often contaminated with sewage or bacteria. Doctors say wash yourself with soap and water and your clothes in hot water.

Puddles are also a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile virus.

Inside your home experts say get rid of absorbent material like insulation, sheet rock, and upholstered furniture, because you can't clean it well enough to prevent disease completely.

They recommend scrubbing hard surfaces with bleach and water.

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