Doctors give ways to protect yourself against health hazards during flood cleanup

Health experts are warning those helping clean up in and around flood waters in eastern Kentucky.
Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 5:21 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Health experts are warning those helping clean up in and around flood waters in eastern Kentucky.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare workers shared with us potential health hazards of bacteria in the mud and water, and the importance of getting a tetanus shot if you haven’t already. There’s also the threat of mosquitoes.

“As folks are cleaning out their houses and pulling out baseboards and things like that, that there is a real risk of puncture wounds like from nails or cuts and debris,” Dr. Jeff Akers with ARH said.

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Dr. Akers is the CEO of Pharmaceutical Services at ARH. He said flood waters could carry dangerous bacteria and any cut to the skin could lead to tetanus, which effects the nervous system and could cause lockjaw.

Dr. Akers wants to make sure volunteers and flood victims have had their tetanus shot within the last 10 years, and said even if you can’t remember your last shot, get one anyway to be on the safe side.

“My recommendation would be get vaccinated, so if they have a laceration or puncture wound then their body would already have the antibodies built to fight that infection,” Dr. Akers said.

“When flood waters happen, think about the turbulent flow of water stirring all these things up, so you have a higher concentration of these contaminates,” said Dr. Gabriel Carrillo, a family practice physician at ARH.

Dr. Carrillo said when flood waters decrease, watch out for black mold, which could lead to respiratory issues.

“You truly don’t know the extent of how much is there and how much exposure you’ve had unless you’re tearing down the walls and really getting in there,” Dr. Carrillo said.

Then there’s mosquitoes. Standing water is a breeding ground for these insects, which not only bite, but could carry disease.

“Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, these things like this exist in America,” Dr. Carrillo said.

Doctors said there are some things you can do to protect yourself.

“When you’re going into these places you want to have gloves, you want to have boots, if you’re spraying down furniture you want to have eye protection,” Dr. Carrillo said.

Dr. Akers said the Tdap vaccine is recommended for tetanus.

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