Hurricane Harvey continues its assault on the southern coast of the U.S., bringing massive amounts of rain and incredible winds. And while the flooding might be a major concern to many, health officials are worried about what the water holds.
One of the biggest dangers that accompany flooding, especially flooding of this caliber, is that the water might lead to a sewage influx. This is when the sewer systems of the local area get drawn into the water above ground, creating a very large health concern. And that’s why health officials in Texas and similarly affected areas are beginning to warn people to stay out of the water.
Floodwater acts as a sponge for hazards, collecting sharp objects, insects and wildlife, and human waste. The water can be immensely dangerous to swim in for any period of time, especially if one has a cut or an open wound. But avoiding the water when it’s raging around and there are no other options is difficult.
This is something that the Texas Department of State Health Services understands, and spokesman Chris Van Deusen admitted that, although his group is advising the avoidance of flood waters, “of course, people have had to be in the water — they haven’t had a choice.”
Another major concern with the floodwater is tetanus, an infection caused by bacteria in soil, dust, and manure. It enters the body through a cut or a puncture wound and creates a poison that causes painful muscle contractions. With all the dirt that is moving around in the water and the increased risk for injury, the bacteria have plenty of chances to infect people.
“The bacterial count in floodwater is extremely high. The chance of getting a skin infection is really quite serious,” said Richard Bradley, the chief of emergency medical services and disaster medicine at the University of Texas’ McGovern Medical School.
Texas health officials are doing everything that they can to get people the medical assistance that they need to fight this infection. They’ve been urging the people in Texas to get their tetanus booster shot, and also sending supplies for the vaccine to severely flooded areas.
Hopefully, the people of Texas manage to avoid disease and sickness, and the cleanup isn’t too expensive. But given that the average construction site clean up can cost between $150 and $950, it can be assumed this will have a heavy price-tag. There are entire communities devastated by Hurricane Harvey.
Luckily, the people of Texas appear to have officials that care to help.