March 23, 2003
RAIN, FLOODING POSE POTENTIAL PUBLIC HEALTH RISKS
Charlotte, NC - Recent heavy rains may help offset years of recent drought, but the potential for flooding can also present dangers to your personal health and safety. The following information may be useful in preventing disease and injury.
Water supplies may be contaminated if the public water supply has lost power or if a private well has been flooded. If this happens, the water in your home may be unsafe for drinking, cooking, or washing. Floodwater receding too quickly can also erode the ground under roads, collapsing water lines. This may contaminate public drinking water supplies and disrupt service.
If your home or business is damaged by floodwater, any porous or absorbent materials like carpet, mattresses and furniture should be thrown away. Hard surfaces like walls and floors should be cleaned with warm, soapy water then rinsed with clean water. Surfaces should be rinsed again with a disinfecting solution of one-fourth cup household bleach to one gallon of water. Clothes that have been damaged by floodwater should be washed in hot, soapy water or dry-cleaned.
Flooding may also cause wastewater to back up into homes. Wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup if sewage backs up into your home. Remove and discard contaminated household goods such as wall coverings, rugs, cloth and drywall that cannot be disinfected.
Standing water left behind by flooding can provide the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. That increases the chances of diseases being spread by these insects. Swarms of mosquitoes are not uncommon in areas affected even weeks after storms. Mosquito eggs can lie dormant for years without water. Those eggs will hatch, increasing the potential for mosquito-borne disease.
Take care to remove excess water from birdbaths, flowerpots, tires, buckets and other containers to minimize the breeding of mosquitoes. Other insects like bees, wasps, and hornets may have had their nests disturbed by the excessive rain. Keep your distance. These insects can become very aggressive.
Snakes may also be looking for higher and drier ground in and around our homes. Other wild animals displaced from their natural habitats may seek shelter in places where they may be exposed to people. Some of these animals may be infected with rabies, so avoid all contact with them. Animal bites, scratches or other contact should be reported to the Mecklenburg County Health Department at 704-336-6440.