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Tips to avoid flood-related health issues

By Staff | Sep 12, 2013

Standing water can cause more than inconvience when traveling – torrential rains pouring over already-saturated grounds such as experienced over the weekend can also bring health risks.

Diana Holm, spokesperson for the Florida Dept. of Health in Lee County, said flooding, no matter how clean the area may seem, carries bacteria.

“It primarily carries fecal chloroform bacteria and chemicals that can cause health problems. The goal is to avoid those things,” Holm said. “It’s not the rain, it’s the runoff carrying everything from upstream from the ground, everybody’s waste.”

Holm said the activity of contaminants in drinking well water has increased significantly and, with many in Lee County not hooked up to city water, this can be a problem.

“We recommend they get their well water tested to be sure it’s safe. And if it turns out to be bad, then they can fix it, but if flooding is causing the problem, they need to consider an alternative water source,” Holm said. “Moving or bottled water are an option.”

Holm said while boiling is the least expensive option, it can be cumbersome if you need to bathe.

As far as flooding goes, up until this past weekend, North Fort Myers and much of Lee County had been mostly lucky, although there has been standing water and puddling in lower, flood-prone areas.

Joan LaGuardia of the EOC said the county brought in some gravel to solve flooding problems on Wellbourne, Skipper and Bradley roads, but other than that, no roads have been closed despite the wetter-than-normal summer.

“They had enough concerns that the ambulances or emergency vehicles couldn’t get through,” LaGuardia said before the weekend. “Technically nothing is flooded. That happens when we have to evacuate people.”

On Monday, Lee County personnel went out again to assess conditions.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation,” said Lee County Public Safety Director Rob Farmer.

Some of the tips recommended by the Florida Dept. of Health in Lee County include:

* Avoid eating or drinking anything that has touched flood waters.

* Basic hygiene is critical. Wash hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected before preparing or eating food.

* Do not wade through, play or allow children to play in standing water.

* Avoid contact with flood waters to open cuts or sores. If open cuts or sores come into contact with flood waters, wash thoroughly with soap to control infection.

* If there is a backflow of sewage into the home, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup. Remove and throw away home goods that cannot be thoroughly cleaned. Clean and disinfect hard surfaces.

* Disinfect food contact surfaces and areas where small children play. Wash linens and clothing in hot water. Air dry larger items in the sun and spray them with disinfectant.

* If plumbing is functioning slowly or sluggishly, conserve water as much as possible. Minimize use of the washing machine. Rental of a portable toilet until the water table has receded or moving temporarily are other options.

* Do not have the septic tank pumped or have it or the drain field repaired. Very wet ground might crush a septic tank that was pumped dry.

For more information, go to www.leechd.com .