As the flood waters that Hurricane Harvey has caused keep rising and spreading over Texas, the officials have issued a warning for thousands of Texans not to go swimming in the water.
No matter how you imagine this, the waters that have flooded big cities are not just water. In fact, when it comes to floods like this, the floodwaters are essentially sponges for any possible hazard you can think of. As they rampage through the city they will collect various sharp objects but that is the least of the concerns with the waters.
What can be there in the flood waters?
When you think about it, it is quite simple to understand how dangerous these waters can be. Starting with animal carcasses of the pets and wildlife that failed to get to safety before the flood became too dangerous and are now polluting those waters. The waters will also gather human waste from the sewers and homes they go through, and not to mention chemicals from the industrial zones that have been hit by the flooding. The water mixes with everything it touches, so, basically, if it goes over a field that was sprayed with pesticide, the water will carry those pesticides. It will also pick up animal waste from any fields or forests that get caught in the floodings.
But, not touching the water is harder than it sounds
While the spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, Chris Van Deusen, did announce that people should avoid waters, he is very aware of the fact that people simply did not have a choice. After all, it is a flood. Take, for example, young Maya Wadler, a 17-year-old girl who had to be rescued in the middle of the night because waters started going through the windows of her home.
So, which infections can this water cause?
As we have mentioned, as the floods can cause serious damage to the infrastructure, they will mix with sewage and, that, now infested water, can easily come into contact with people. One of the main concerns when it comes to infections must be tetanus.
Tetanus is an infection that bacteria, usually found in manure, dust, and soil, enters your body through a wound, usually caused by a cut or a puncture wound. Once inside your body, the bacteria can start producing a poison that will make your muscle contract painfully. These contractions can even cause the muscles in your neck and jaw to lock in, and that is how it earned the nickname “lockjaw”. Thankfully, most people have been vaccinated against tetanus. After all, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends every adult get a tetanus shot every 10 years to boost their immunity. Not to mention that they are sending supplies to the affected areas to try and help people at risk.
Tetanus is not the only infection that is making doctors worry. Another potential threat comes from the fact that the ocean waters are now swamping the urban areas. This means that marine bacteria is suddenly in a non-controlled environment and mixing with various other toxins. And people are not commonly prepared to react to the threat of marine bacteria.
One of these bacteria that is causing doctors’ headaches is Vibrio vulnificus. Vibrio bacteria are naturally occurring microbes that rarely pose a risk. But, when they do, it can be potentially deadly. When hurricane Katrina hit over a decade ago, Vibrio came up as a problem. Five people lost their lives due to having a Vibrio infection and over 20 had to have their limbs amputated.
What should you look out for?
As the bacterial count in these waters can be very high, the chance of a skin infection happening to someone is not small either. So, everyone who had to come into contact with the flood waters should pay special attention if:
- If you have any wounds, cuts, or scratches on your body, be on the look out and seek help if those wounds start getting “hot” or red.
- if you start noticing any of the common symptoms like fever, chills, or body ache, visit the doctor’s office immediately.
We understand that helping others or saving your belongings from the floods matters, but you will not be of much use if you develop a deadly infection.