HUDSON—Residents of areas flooded by torrential rains last week have been asking Columbia County Health Department officials questions about how to deal with floodwater and deposits.
Concerns have been raised about playing in backyards, parks or playgrounds, gardening, eating homegrown vegetables because of possible contamination, both biological and chemical, says a county Health Department press release.
According to information from the state Department of Health’s Center for Environmental Health, floodwaters may contain sewage, animal waste and other contaminants. But outbreaks of diseases or infections are unusual following floods. Pathogens and contaminants are usually dilute and pose little risk.
In most flood circumstances, practicing basic hygiene will be sufficient to avoid health concerns.
The county Health Department advises people to wash their hands with soap and clean water: before preparing or eating food; after toilet use; after contact with floodwater or participating in flood cleanup activities; and after handling articles contaminated with floodwater or sewage.
Skin contact with floodwater or most muddy deposits left by flooding does not pose a health threat, unless someone has an open wound. If an open wound gets dirty or has been exposed to floodwaters, clean it by washing well with soap and water, consider applying a topical antibiotic and cover the wound with a sterile bandage.
In general, vaccinations, booster shots or antibiotics are not needed.
If someone receives a puncture wound or if a wound gets contaminated with feces, soil or saliva, that person should seek medical attention from his physician to determine whether a tetanus booster is necessary.
Once the land has dried, most pathogens will be deactivated. Playing and gardening on once flooded land does not pose a significant health concern. All garden vegetables should be carefully rinsed and scrubbed in clean water before eating, particularly if the produce is eaten without cooking, according to the release.
If a specific source of chemicals is known or suspected, if unusual chemical odors are noticed or if sheen is on the water, then an assessment should be done to determine if additional actions, such as sampling should be considered. Remember that flooding requires a large volume of water that is often fast moving. Therefore, most contamination will be substantially diluted and carried downstream.
Residents whose property is damaged by flooding should contact their town or village officials and/or the Columbia County Health Department at (518) 828-3358 during regular business hours Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information about preventing injury or illness from flooding visit these websites:
www.nyhealth.gov/environmental/emergency/flood/index.htm or www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/floods/