McLeod Health official warns of infection risks from floodwaters

September 21, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. – The rising waters in parts of the Pee Dee bring two risks of infection: bacteria and contaminants lurking in the water and bugs such as mosquitoes.

Michelle King, director of infection prevention at McLeod Health, said the best way to avoid infection from flood waters is to avoid contact with such waters if possible. It is also important to prevent pets from coming into contact with the water. She said the water could be contaminated with gasoline or other chemicals, or even raw sewage.

“You could also have debris in the water,” King continued. “It’s also important to remember that if you have floodwater that enters your home, you might have snakes or other wild animals that enter your house.”

King said when cleaning up from flood damage, it’s important to wear heavy gloves to lessen the likelihood of an animal bite or contact with contaminated water. Anything, she added, that got wet from floodwater needs to be cleaned and disinfected before returning to use.

“Mud left from the floodwater could contain sewage and chemicals,” King said. “So, it’s important to have those gloves and boots on when you do your cleanup.”

Proper ventilation is also important to prevent breathing in air contaminated by mold and to allow for the safe use of cleaning chemicals.

King said walls, flooring and carpet that have been saturated with water for over 24 hours probably should be replaced to prevent the growth of mold.

Mosquitoes are another primary danger from flood waters. They are attracted to standing water as it is where their young are born. Mosquitoes carry the risk of diseases such as the West Nile virus.

Florence County Environmental Services has foggers that travel 20 mph. The Centers for Disease Control recommends the use of long-sleeved clothing and insect repellent.

People who see signs of infection should seek medical help immediately.

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