Floodwaters pose a significant hazard to public health says Houston Health Department
With tropical storm Harvey having caused destruction in Houston, the regional health department has revealed that the aftermath is just as dangerous to public health as the storm itself as a result of the flood water that has remained.
Both the health and environmental risks that the body of water contains is significant, containing sewage, debris and waste, as well as chemicals coming from the city’s petrochemical plants that were hit and damaged by the storm.
As a result, it is feared that the flooding could begin to cause infectious diseases such as cholera and typhoid, and expose citizens to toxic and carcinogenic compounds that could cause bodily harm.
“There’s no need to test it. It’s contaminated. There’s millions of contaminants,” said Porfirio Villarreal, a spokesperson for the Houston Health Department.
“We’re telling people to avoid the floodwater as much as possible. Don’t let your children play in it. And if you do touch it, wash it off. Remember, this is going to go on for weeks.”
To make matters worse, the stagnant standing water that remains is the ideal breeding ground for mosquitos, already a common pest in the Houston area. “I can’t emphasise the vector-borne disease issue,” said Dr Gerald Parker on the matter, a man who served in disaster response for the federal government for 36 years.
With contamination such a health hazard in the immediate aftermath of the storm, avoiding the flood water and taking necessary precautions will be a high priority for the population over the coming weeks in order to contain the threats to public health.