Hidden Health Dangers of Flooding

Hidden Health Dangers of Flooding

Flooding is one of the most formidable natural disasters humanity faces. Not only does it cause incredible damage, but floodwaters also pick up and transfer sewage, which carries harmful materials and pathogens, wreaking havoc on flood victims by exposing them to diseases.

Diseases and Danger Found in Floodwaters

  • E. coli – Wherever sewage can be found, E. coli (Escherichia coli) is likely to be found with it. E. coli is easily transmitted through sewage-contaminated floodwaters and can cause stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and severe diarrhea, which can lead to bloody stool. Diarrhea can also lead to dehydration, which can be deadly if drinkable water is unavailable.
  • Cholera – Another infectious disease that leads to severe, watery diarrhea. Its transmission method is like E. coli but originates from a different type of bacteria – Vibrio cholerae.
  • Typhoid Fever – An illness caused by Salmonella bacteria. Salmonella travels easily when deposited in water by a human carrier. Typhoid can last as long as three to four weeks, making it a nasty illness to deal with. Symptoms include chest congestion, fevers of 104 degrees Fahrenheit, diarrhea and lethargy. Only strong antibiotics can kill Salmonella bacteria, and in disaster areas where medicine is limited, the fever has an average 20 percent mortality rate.
  • Leptospirosis – A rat-borne disease spread through the urine and stool of rats in floodwater. The disease affects both humans and animals, such as dogs, and causes a wide range of symptoms including:
    • Fever
    • Jaundice
    • Vomiting
    • Chills
    • Diarrhea

    The disease can have two phases. Most patients suffer symptoms in the first phase and initially recover, but may become sick again, beginning the second phase. The second phase is much more severe and can lead to kidney or liver failure or cause meningitis. Without treatment, recovery can take months.

  • Mosquito-Borne Diseases – After the storm passes, it often leaves still water, which turns into a breeding ground for mosquitos. An increase in mosquito-borne diseases like malaria commonly occurs in flood-prone areas both shortly and long after flooding has occurred.
  • Snakes – Some snake species are capable of swimming in water and become easily displaced when flooding occurs. Floodwaters also make it difficult to spot them, making snake bites an issue if wading through water. Poisonous snakes can prove dangerous. Not only is obtaining anti-venom during a disaster difficult, but the open wound caused by the snake can also become infected due to dirty floodwater. The wound can quickly become gangrenous. This, combined with snake venom, can be deadly, leading to amputation or death.

Get Flood-Borne Illnesses and Injuries Treated with St. Hope Foundation

Many water-borne illnesses can become deadly if left untreated. St. Hope Foundation’s role is to provide long-term comprehensive care, managing both common and complex illnesses. We provide a full range of diagnostic, consultation, evaluation, treatment and prevention services for a wide variety of infectious disease-related problems.

We’ll refer you to an appropriate specialist or another medical facility if you need specialized diagnostic tests or treatment. Our clinical expertise also includes efficiently treating diseases and illnesses in patients with immune system disorders such as HIV/AIDS. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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Rodney Goodie is founder and chief executive officer of St. Hope Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to medical care, pharmacy, clinical research and dental care.

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