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Health Department: Flood waters pose health risk | Health

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Health Department: Flood waters pose health risk
Health, Weather
Health Department: Flood waters pose health risk

Tampa, Florida - The Hillsborough County Health Department warns against swimming or wading through floods left around the Bay area from Tropical Storm Debby,

According to a recent release, skin contact with flood waters does not, by itself, pose a serious health risk, but health hazards are a concern when waters become contaminated.

Flood waters may contain fecal material, associated bacteria, and viruses.

The Hillsborough County Health Department recommends the following precautions to prevent possible illness from flood waters:

  • Basic hygiene is critical.
  • Wash your hands with soap and (clean) water before preparing or eating food, after toilet use, after participating in flood cleanup activities, and after handling articles contaminated with flood water or sewage.
  • Avoid eating or drinking anything that has been contaminated with flood waters.
  • Do not wade through standing water. If you do, bathe and put on clean clothes as soon as possible.
  • Avoid contact with flood waters if you have open cuts or sores.  If you have any open cuts or sores and cannot avoid contact with flood waters, keep them as clean as possible by washing well with soap to control infection. If a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, seek immediate medical attention. 
  • If there is a backflow of sewage into your house:
  • Wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup.
  • Remove and discard absorbent household materials, such as wall coverings, cloth, rugs, and sheetrock.
  • Clean walls and hard-surfaced floors with soap and water and disinfect with a solution of 1/4 cup of bleach to one gallon of water.
  • Thoroughly disinfect food contact surfaces (counter tops, refrigerators, tables) and areas where small children play.
  • Wash all linens and clothing in hot water.
  • Air dry larger items in the sun and spray them with a disinfectant.
  • Steam clean all carpeting.
  • If your plumbing is functioning slowly or sluggishly, you should:   
  • Conserve water as much as possible; the less water used the less sewage the septic tank must process.
  • Minimize use of your washing machine. Go to a laundromat.
  • Rental of a portable toilet for a temporary period may be another option.
  • Do not have the septic tank pumped. Exceptionally high water tables might crush a septic tank that was pumped dry. If the fundamental problem is high ground water, pumping the tank does nothing to solve that problem.
  • If you cannot use your plumbing without creating a sanitary nuisance, such as, without sewage being exposed, consider moving to a new location until conditions improve.
  • Do not have the septic tank and drainfield repaired until the ground has dried. Often systems are completely functional when unsaturated conditions return. Any repair must be permitted and inspected by your county health department.

For more information, please contact your local county health department or visit www.doh.state.fl.us or www.FloridaDisaster.org.

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