Thursday, May 5, 2011

Flooding Creates Health, Safety Concerns

Public Health Issues Guidelines Related to Severe Flooding

FRANKFORT, Ky. - The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is reminding Kentuckians to follow safety guidelines in the wake of severe flooding and water run-off throughout the state.
     “We want Kentuckians to use caution as flood conditions remain in some areas, and as clean-up begins as flood waters recede,” said Dr. William Hacker, DPH commissioner. “Taking the time to follow safety guidelines related to food safety, mold removal and other issues helps prevent unnecessary injury and illness.”
     The following precautions are recommended by DPH.

Flood Waters
- Whenever possible people should avoid contact with flood waters, since they are unclean and can pose health risks. Flood waters can be a risk for tetanus for those with open wounds who come into direct contact with them. Contact your regular health care provider or your local health department if you believe you may need a tetanus shot.
- Flood-related drowning is also a danger and can occur when people become trapped by rising flood waters or when they voluntarily enter flooded areas. Never enter flood waters unless you are escaping immediate danger or attempt to drive a vehicle through flood waters. Carefully monitor the weather conditions and water levels to avoid becoming surrounded by water.
- Floods can damage utilities, leading to downed power lines and a risk for electrocution. Stay clear of damaged power lines. Natural gas and propane systems can produce dangerous gas leaks. If you smell gas, open doors and windows and evacuate the area.

Home Clean-up and Mold Removal
- Use care during clean-up measures. Wear proper safety equipment, such as work gloves, boots, helmets, eye and ear protection, and chainsaw chaps when operating power tools or machinery. Ensure all electrical tools are properly grounded and use ground fault interrupters (GFI) if available. Never use electrically powered tools in or near standing water.    
- Homeowners whose homes sustained water damage are urged to follow recommendations to limit mold growth. Mold fungi can be found indoors and outside and can accumulate in homes affected by flood/water damage. Mold grows best in warm, damp and humid conditions and spreads by making spores. 
- Signs of mold include discolored walls possibly showing water damage, or green or black spots apparent on walls. Mold also has a musty, earthy smell or a foul stench. Allergy sufferers tend to be most affected by mold exposure.
- DPH recommends that doors and windows be open while cleaning the affected area. Use protective glasses or goggles, rubber boots and waterproof gloves and wash clothing afterwards. If there is heavy mold growth, use a respirator or suitable mask to prevent breathing the mold. Remove all items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and are not able to be cleaned and dried.
- If mold is growing in your home, you will need to clean up the mold and fix the moisture problem. Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Severe mold cases may require an expert to clean up.

Food Safety
- DPH also cautions people to keep food safety in mind if they have been affected by power outages. This includes keeping freezers closed to maintain the proper temperature for frozen foods. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours and for 24 hours if the freezer is half full. If you have power outages keep freezers closed to help keep frozen food from going bad.
- Refrigerated foods should be safe as long as power is out for no more than four hours. Throw away any perishable food in your refrigerator, such as meat, poultry, lunchmeats, fish, dairy products, eggs and any prepared or cooked foods that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours.

For more information about public health issues related to flooding in English and Spanish visit this page.



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