After flooding events, personal hygiene plays an important role in reducing illnesses such as dysentery and gastroenteritis.
When flood waters recede questions arise about the safety of using outdoor areas. Playgrounds and even your own yard may be at risk. Water treatment plants, septic systems, farming operations and even city sewer systems may have been affected by the flooding and can contaminate flooded areas.
According to the CDC Hurricane Katrina left elevated fecal coliforms, and the Midwest floods of 2001 showed an increase in gastrointesinal illnesses.
Studies are being conducted to determine how long it takes for the risks to human exposure to be reduced. Some bacteria will live for months depending on environmental conditions and it is this variety of conditions such as temperature, moisture, pH and soil characteristics that make generalized guildelines difficult.
However, in all episodes of flooding events, personal hygiene plays an important role in reducing illnesses such as dysentery and gastroenteritis. The CDC even recommends, “Education efforts should emphasize proper handwashing and adequate handwashing and drying supplies and equipment in public restrooms and at temporary handwashing facilities should be provided. Education efforts should include cautions to avoid standing water, areas saturated with floodwater, and areas with visible debris. Those areas create concern for microbial exposure and may also cause public safety concerns.”
Other ways to control exposure to potential pathogens in the soil include:
-Put new soil on top of the affected soil
-Plant new grass
-Water the ground to flush organisms out of the upper layers of soil
-Pave the affected areas with asphalt, brick, cement or stone
If you are concerned about potential contamination of your property, contact your local Emergency Management Office for guidance.