Depending on where you live in the world, there are different health risks and issues associated with flooding and water damage. If you reside in California, and elsewhere in the United States, there are five types of illnesses associated with flooding. These are:
- Skin and other infections
- Gastrointestinal illnesses
- Mosquito-borne illnesses
- Legionnaires Disease
Skin and Other Infections
Ingesting harmful pathogens contained in floodwater is not the only way a person can become ill or even die. The reality is that exposure to floodwater can also result in skin and other types of infections. Many of these infections are contracted when people are involved in the flood cleanup process.
If a person has some sort of abrasion or cut on his or her skin and comes into contact with floodwater, an infection can occur. For example, there are cases in which people come into contact with flood-water after a weather event like a hurricane. The individuals have ended up afflicted with an infection involving necrotizing fasciitis. This is more commonly known as an infection with flesh-eating bacteria.
An infection involving necrotizing fasciitis can be so intense that it cannot be effectively controlled with antibiotics. There are a growing number of cases in which people have had to have limbs amputated as the result of contracting necrotizing fasciitis infections as the result of exposure to floodwater.
Skin and other infections underscore the need to be certain to wear appropriate personal protective equipment or PPE if contact with floodwater is expected. Appropriate PPE must be worn during the floodwater cleanup process.
As an aside, infections from floodwater also illustrates the importance of obtaining assistance from an experienced water damage restoration company. A water damage restoration company is in the best position to effectively and safely undertake cleanup after a flood.
One of the most significant risks associated with flood water is exposure to bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are capable of causing different types of gastrointestinal illnesses. Medical experts advise that most of these illnesses are not particularly serious. With that said, these are illnesses that can leave a person dealing with vomiting and diarrhea.
While for most people in a majority of situations, a person will not become gravely ill as a result of these gastrointestinal conditions. With that said, if the symptoms associated with these illnesses persist, particularly diarrhea, an individual can become seriously ill. Indeed, every year there are cases in which the symptoms of gastrointestinal conditions associated with flood water exposure become so significant that they become life-threatening. Specifically, there are instances in which individuals exposed to flood water contract illnesses that result in life-threatening dehydration.
Examples of flood water pathogens that can cause gastrointestinal illnesses include:
- E. coli
Mosquito-borne illnesses are other types of diseases that can be contracted when floodwater conditions exist. In the United States, when it comes to mosquito-borne illnesses associated with flooding, the West Nile Virus has been the most commonplace. Flooding can also result in other diseases that include:
- Zika virus
- Dengue fever
As noted, West Nile Virus is the most common of the mosquito-borne illnesses associated with floodwater in the United States. If a person thinks that he or she has been exposed to this virus in the aftermath of a flood, that individual should seek medical care immediately. West Nile is most effectively treated when identified immediately and when treatment starts promptly.
Legionnaires disease is a respiratory infection that can result in:
- Shortness of breath
In the case of flooding, Legionnaires disease is most often transmitted when contaminated water (like flood water) gets into sources of drinking water. Symptoms of Legionnaires disease include:
- Shortness of breath
Legionnaires disease normally is treated fairly easily with antibiotics. There are cases in which Legionnaires disease has been fatal when it was not caught early on.
Most people associate the spread of hepatitis through sexual activity, contact with blood, or IV drug use. These certainly are ways through which hepatitis B and C spread.
Two other types of hepatitis can be spread through contaminated water, including flood water. These are hepatitis A and E. Hepatitis E is not at all commonplace in the United States. However, hepatitis A is an issue in the United States and can be contracted through contaminated flood water.
Disease and Floodwater Cleanup
As has been noted, contracting diseases during the floodwater cleanup process is a significant risk. Even when using proper personal protective equipment, a layperson lacks the skillset and experience needed to safely and effectively cleanup floodwater. The obvious need to keep safe in the aftermath of a flood, including during the cleaning process, really does underscore the need to engage the services of a water damage restoration specialist.