Created on Tuesday, 10 June 2008 08:30

Contact: Collette DuValle, 317-373-2391

Health Department Urges Caution for Those Interacting with Storms’ Aftermath

Marion County residents affected by water damage associated with recent storms can contact the Marion County Health Department for free information on safe clean-up practices. If the damage involves flooding, and the homeowner uses well water, the health department can also provide free well water testing.

Failure to remove water damaged materials and to reduce moisture and humidity can present serious long-term health risks. Standing water and wet materials are a breeding ground for microorganisms, such as bacteria and mold. They can cause disease, trigger allergic reaction, and continue to damage materials long after the flood.

To avoid problems from mold and bacteria, all standing water should be removed and the home should be dried out as quickly as possible. Materials that are wet and cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried should be discarded, as they can remain a source of mold or bacteria growth. Information on clean up and the types of water damaged materials that should be discarded are provided in the American Red Cross/FEMA booklet, Repairing Your Flooded Home.

If there is extensive mold growth in a building, it may be necessary to hire a professional experienced in mold evaluation and remediation. When hiring outside contractors or professionals, check references and make sure that they have experience cleaning mold and that they will follow recommended guidelines for mold remediation.

To clean a house and its contents, the Marion County Health Department recommends that common household cleaning products be used and urges caution if using disinfectants and / or sanitizers as they contain toxic substances.

Persons cleaning mold should wear gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask or respirator to protect against breathing airborne spores (an N95 mask or respirator may be purchased in hardware stores).

When using any cleaner, residents are reminded always to read and follow label instructions carefully and provide fresh air by opening windows and doors. If it is safe to use electricity and the home is dry, use fans both during and after the use of cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing products.

To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, residents still without electricity should never use combustion devices like gasoline-powered generators, camp stoves and lanterns or charcoal-burning devices inside homes or garages. These devices can rapidly produce large amounts of carbon monoxide resulting in deadly levels of carbon monoxide indoors.

Contact the health department at 221-2266 for more information.

Additional Information:

State health officials recommend people in flooded areas make sure they are up-to-date on their tetanus immunizations. Routine tetanus boosters are recommended every 10 years. For people who receive more serious wounds, a tetanus booster is appropriate if they have not received one within the last 5 years.

Tetanus is an acute, often fatal, disease caused by an exotoxin. Symptoms of tetanus include generalized rigidity and painful spasms of skeletal muscles. The muscle stiffness usually involves the jaw (lockjaw) and neck and then becomes more generalized. Any type of wound, major or minor, could be an entry source for the tetanus organism. State health officials advise anyone who sustains an injury from materials affected by floodwaters to seek immediate medical attention.

Once floodwater recedes, remaining standing water on properties is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus. After it is safe to start clean up efforts, state health officials recommend people dispose of old tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or other unused containers that can hold water; repair failed septic systems; keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed; and clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains. Hoosiers are urged to contact their local health department if they are concerned about mosquitoes in their area.

When outdoors, people should apply insect repellent containing DEET, Picardin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to clothes and exposed skin to protect themselves from being bitten by a mosquito.