Floods can be devastating and cause property and environmental damage, but afterwards there are a number of public health risks that are often overlooked by communities trying to mitigate and recover from the damage.
Here are 5 things to look out for after a flood, so you can protect yourself, your friends, pets and family from harm and risk of disease after a flood in your area.
Ticks are around all the time in rural areas, especially those near bodies of water like lakes, rivers and swamps. But after a flood, breeding conditions improve and tick numbers increase. Ticks are often most discussed with relation to pets because animals are frequently fed on and some varieties of tick like paralysis ticks are life threatening.
However ticks can also cause problems in humans and can spread diseases like Lyme Disease which affects the autoimmune system and creates ongoing health problems like polymyalgia, fibromyalgia and arthritis.
Mosquitoes are a usual part of life during the warmer months but after a flood they are more dangerous and carry several dangerous vector borne diseases like Dengue Fever in tropical regions, and Ross River Fever in subtropical or temperate zones. More recently there has been increased incidence of Japanese Encephalitis related to exposure by mosquitoes. More information can be found here
3. Water Contamination
One of the most important public health discoveries in the modern age was the Broad Street Pump, where John Snow, an English doctor and founder of epidemiology, discovered that a cholera outbreak could be tracked to a particular water pump used by an entire neighbourhood for their daily water supply.
In Hepburn Shire there are many mineral springs with established pumps and they are usually very healthy to drink, however following a flood there are many contaminants that may have seeped through the water table including sewage, infection causing bacteria, animal carcasses and chemical waste.
It is not wise to drink from the pumps, wade or swim in bodies of water until after the water has been tested by local environmental authorities or until local or state government public health authorities give the all clear.
4. Mold infestation
Aspergillus, or black mold infestation can result in further damage to property and also cause ongoing health issues including autoimmune disorders, respiratory and gastrointestinal issues.
The best way to deal with mold following a flood is to make sure your environment undergoes mold remediation rather than doing it yourself. A mold remediation crew will fumigate using chemicals. Some use natural products so if you need them to do this it’s best to do some research first. You may need to dispose of furniture items or building chattels containing mold spores to prevent health risks and protect yourself from adverse effects of mold contamination.
5. Unusual wildlife activity
When their natural habitat is disturbed, many creatures who live in flooded areas try to escape to higher ground in order to survive. Whilst native species are rescued and helped to safety, other pests like rodents, feral animals and venomous snakes also need to escape to safety, shifting them to different areas. Areas populated by humans provide a valuable food source in the absence of normal food supply.
Links to further information
Victorian government Department of Health
Australian government Department of Health
Business Victoria Flood Relief Grants