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Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals | Kathy Kliebert, Secretary

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As Tropical Storm Karen Approaches, Health Officials Remind Residents to Stay Out of Floodwaters

Friday, October 4, 2013  |  Contact: Media & Communications: Phone: 225.342.1532, E-mail: dhhinfo@la.gov

BATON ROUGE, La. - The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals advises people to avoid contact with floodwaters following a hurricane or tropical storm. Tropical Storm Karen could cause minor flooding in coastal areas, particularly in low-lying areas in St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, based on current forecasts.

Residents of areas affected by Tropical Storm Karen are advised to keep the following tips in mind if flooding has occurred near them:

  • Do not wade or swim in contaminated floodwaters. Tropical Storm Karen's floodwaters may seem inviting to children and harmless to those cleaning up, but the high water is very dangerous. DHH urges everyone to stay out of the floodwaters.
  • Keep a watchful eye on children. Parents need to keep a constant watch of their children to prevent playing in or around flooded areas. It doesn't take long and it doesn't take much water for young children to drown. In many cases, children who drowned had been out of sight less than five minutes and were in the care of one or both parents at the time.
  • Be aware of hidden dangers. Floodwaters pose many hazards. Debris hidden below the murky waters can injure. Some high waters in ditches and bayous have swift currents and can pull someone under and away from the reach of safety. Charged power lines in floodwaters can electrocute.
  • Watch out for wildlife. Animals and insects pose a real danger in floodwaters. Poisonous snakes, alligators, ants and leeches will attack humans and can either kill or cause serious injury and extreme pain.
  • Do not use floodwater for household tasks. Floodwaters are also mixed with raw sewerage and filled with parasites and bacteria that can make you ill. Do not drink the water, or brush your teeth, or clean dishes with floodwater.
  • Disinfect items that have touched floodwater. People whose homes are flooded should assume everything touched by floodwater is contaminated with bacteria and will have to be disinfected. Most cleanup can be done with household cleaning products such as bleach or antibacterial products. Residents are advised to wash their hands frequently during cleanup and always wear rubber gloves.
  • Be mindful of your health. Handling and cleaning contaminated materials can result in massive exposures to mold, bacteria, viruses and other contaminants.  Individuals with respiratory allergies, or other illnesses, should not handle or disturb materials that have visible mold growth. Professional cleaning companies using appropriate personal protective equipment should be used if contamination is extensive.

For information about Flood Safety, visit http://dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/page/308/n/176

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