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Infectious Diseases Arise As Flooding Recedes

Hurricanes are one of the most brutal natural disasters, leaving wreckage that can seem impossible to recover from. One of the worst aspects of a hurricane is the flooding it leaves behind. Flooding leads to a staggering number of health problems that have nothing to do with drowning. Preparing and becoming educated on these potential issues is the best way to avoid becoming a victim after the hurricane is gone.

Flooding Leads to Disease From Multiple Sources

Flooding on its own is a dangerous concept, but when the floodwaters begin to recede, there is more potential for harm. Mold growth, mosquito infestations, and stagnant water are all things that can cause huge risks of exposure to disease.

Unfortunately, flooding from hurricanes is often coupled with severe structural damage to buildings and homes, power outages, and loss of transportation. People may be stuck together in the same area for weeks at a time waiting for relief. Staying enclosed in small areas without healthcare supplies leads to poor hygiene and the extensive spread of germs. When cleanup begins, mold may have already invaded a home, as it only takes a few days to begin growing. Additionally, stagnant water can lead to enormous jumps in mosquito populations and can cause many diseases due to exposure to bacteria.

What Makes Floodwater Prone to Bacteria?

Floodwaters often become contaminated from a host of sources. Raw sewage from overflowing sewer drains is the main source, but septic tanks, landfills, portable toilets, cemeteries, and feedlots are other common origination points for bacteria. Additionally, dangerous chemicals and items such as broken glass or metal can be present in floodwater, making for a frightening combination.


Floodwaters that are contaminated with multiple sources of chemicals and bacteria can cause life-threatening diseases to spread. The elderly, small children, and the handicapped are the most at risk for illness after a flood. Their immune systems are much weaker than most and they have less ability to avoid being exposed to floodwater. Body parts that are submerged for an extended period of time are often the origination point for bacteria to attack the body. Chemicals and sewage in the water can cause burns, rashes, and boils to occur on the skin. Glass and metal shards in the water are hazards as well.

Other things that cause diseases to spread after a flood are exposure to mold and mosquito-borne illnesses. Mosquitos carry several diseases: West Nile, Malaria, Zika, and Dengue are the most common. Standing water is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos, and many people who are displaced from floods are unable to protect themselves from being bitten, allowing for the rampant spread of diseases. Illnesses can also be exacerbated due to mold exposure. Those with COPD or asthma are particularly vulnerable, but even people with highly functional immune systems are at risk for upper respiratory infections.

Cleanup Challenges

Many health-related cleaning issues come from being uneducated on how to proceed safely. People go into their homes with no protection and try to move things out and preserve what they can. Using inadequate protection and incorrect cleaning methods will only make people sick and cause health issues for years to come.

Correct Cleaning and Protection Methods

These clean up methods keep everyone safe while cleaning up a property:

  • Wear rubber boots and gloves.
  • Use a respirator or mask.
  • Bleach, soap, and water are the best cleaning tools.
  • Don’t touch anything directly that has been in flood water.
  • Throw away all food, medicines, and drinks that have submerged.

After Cleanup

It is imperative that after fully cleaning a home or being exposed to floodwaters or mold for long periods of time, that a doctor is consulted to ensure consistent health. Many diseases don’t seem like much at the beginning of the illness but can turn deadly later. This is also true for mold exposure, as lungs can become affected in just a few hours. Visiting a doctor early on ensures that potential illnesses are detected quickly.

Floodwaters cause a myriad of health issues, many caused by bacteria within the water. Becoming educated about safety and clean up before a flood occurs is a proactive and intelligent step in avoiding the spread of disease.

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