Protecting your health during flood cleanup


Bennington Street in Roanoke flooded due to rainfall event. (Courtesy: Kara Thompson, WFXR News)

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — As floodwaters start to receded in portions of the Roanoke Valley and the New River Valley, the cleanup process begins. However, floodwaters not only cause property damage, but can also impact a person’s health.

Floodwater and standing waters can make people vulnerable to infectious diseases, chemical hazards, and injuries. It’s important to protect yourself from these risks during the cleanup process.

Floodwaters can contain a number of things that may not be visible; this includes debris, downed power lines, human and livestock waste, wild animals, and household and industrial waste to name a few. Exposure to floodwaters can potential lead to:

  • Wound infections
  • Skin rash
  • Gastrointestinal illness
  • Tetanus
  • Leptospirosis (not common)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you come into contact with floodwater or standing waters:

  • Wash the area with soap and clean water as soon as possible. If you don’t have soap or water, use alcohol-based wipes or sanitizer.
  • If you hurt yourself while cleaning up in floodwater, take care of the wounds and seek medical attention if necessary.
  • Wash clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent before reusing them.
  • Wash your hands after contact with floodwater.
  • Do not swim, play, or bathe in floodwater. This includes rivers, streams, or lakes that have risen due to flooding.

If you must enter floodwater during cleanup, wear rubber gloves, boots, and goggles. Cleanup should not be attempted when there is moving water.

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