Health officials reiterate precautions to prevent infections from contaminated flood waters

POLK COUNTY, Fla. - As Polk County areas continue to experience flooding due to Tropical Storm Debby, health officials want to remind the public that contaminated flood waters can cause serious infections.

Flood waters can become contaminated with fecal matter, associated material and viruses, according to a health department release.

To avoid getting sick through contact with flood waters, the health department is emphasizing the following precautions:

Use Basic Hygiene to avoid the spread of germs

Wash your hands with soap and  water that has been boiled or disinfected before preparing or eating food, after toilet use, after participating in flood cleanup activities, and after handling articles contaminated with flood water or sewage.

Also Avoid eating or drinking anything that has been contaminated with flood waters.

Avoid physical contact 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.

Residents who sustain lacerations and/or puncture wounds and have not had a tetanus vaccination within the past 10 years require a tetanus booster.

Dealing with sewage back flow in the home

If there is a back flow of sewage in 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 sluggishly

Conserve water as much as possible; the less water used the less sewage the septic tank must process. Minimize your use of your washing machine. Go to a laundromat. Rental of a portable toilet for a temporary period as 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, sewage being exposed, consider moving to a new location until conditions improve.

Do not have the septic tank and drain field repaired until the ground has dried. Often systems are completely functional when flood waters dry out .

Any repairs 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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