What You Need to Know About Hurricane Harvey’s Aftermath

A bright yellow sign warns motorists that the road is flooded.

In the wake of the ongoing devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, many Texas locals are wondering how to begin picking up the pieces. Along with restoring homes and resuming a normal day-to-day, many are worried about the sewage-filled flood waters circulating the area. Inside Edition reporter, Ryan Sit recently spoke to Dr. Oz about waterborne and water-related diseases that residents and health officials in Texas should be aware of. Read on to learn more.

 Q: What kind of contaminants may be in the floodwaters and dangers do they present?

A: Floodwater isn’t just rain. It can be contaminated with bacteria from sewage as well as chemicals. Everyone should avoid wading through floodwaters, especially people with open wounds because they can get infected. Diarrheal disease caused by floodwater contaminated with norovirus is also an issue. Don’t eat or drink anything contaminated with floodwater, even canned food. Be sure to wash thoroughly if you’ve been in contact with water.  Don’t let children play in floodwater.

Q: What are residents, first responders, and health officials facing as it relates to water-related diseases?

A: Right now health officials aren’t focused on waterborne infections because the biggest killer in floods is actually drowning. In fact, in past floods in the US, the majority of deaths involved motor vehicles. So never drive into flooded roadways, since only six inches of water can cause you to lose control of your car and only 18 inches of water can carry most cars away, including SUVs. Walking in flooded areas is another major cause of death. The other big concern right now is carbon monoxide poisoning. Because of power outages, many people are hooking up generators to power their houses and these can generate carbon monoxide. Use generators at least 20 feet from any doors, windows, or vents.

Q: How important is it to make sure all the water doesn’t become stagnant, that it gets pumped out ASAP?

A: Stagnant water is a breeding ground for bugs, but the bigger concern is that standing water in your house leads to mold growth, which is dangerous for your health. Residents shouldn’t focus on pumping out the water right now, they should be focused on staying out of the water instead. The damage is done, but when the flood is over people should be getting rid of all their furniture and drywall that was immersed in water.

Q: What symptoms should residents be on the lookout for and what are their treatment options?

A: If people are in crowded shelters they are at risk for the spread of viral infections, so it’s important to wash your hands frequently.  At home, people may experience diarrhea from contact with contaminated water, and if that happens it’s important to stay hydrated.