Many residential areas have suffered damage as a result of the flooding. When cleaning flood damage, health department officials recommend the following tips:
• Wear protective clothing, such as rubber boots, gloves and eye protection. Keep hands away from the mouth and face after handling materials that could be contaminated by flood water. Also, be sure to immediately clean, disinfect and bandage all wounds regardless of size. As always, when finished cleaning, wash hands with soap and hot water.
• All floors, walls and ceilings should be hosed down with clean water and scrubbed with a brush or broom using a solution of detergent and hot water.
• Most flood-damaged clothing and furniture can be salvaged if the items can be cleaned and disinfected. However, contaminated mattresses and stuffed furniture should be destroyed. Commercial cleaning of rugs, draperies and clothing is encouraged. In addition, special attention should be given to children’s beds, cribs, toys and playpens. Contaminated stuffed toys should be discarded.
• All dining utensils, including plates and bowls, should be washed in hot, soapy water and then rinsed with clean water and disinfected by submerging for at least one minute in a solution. The solution should consist of one tablespoon bleach per one gallon of clean water.
• Appliances, including refrigerators and stoves, should be examined. Discard appliances if insulation contamination has occurred.
Protecting food after flooding occurs also is vital to maintaining both health and safety. According to the health department, consuming foods as well as using household products, medicines and cosmetics that have been exposed to flood waters pose many healthy threats. The health department urges residents to immediately destroy exposed items in a manner approved by either the state or local sanitarian. Officials recommend this guide when dealing with flooding and food supplies:
• All fresh fruits and vegetables exposed to flood water should be destroyed. Fruits and vegetables exposed to flood water in home gardens should not be used.
• All meats, including fresh, dried, frozen and home canned, should be destroyed, except those in hermetically sealed containers (tin cans) that remain airtight. However, the health department does not recommend salvaging hermetically sealed containers.
• Food, such as cereals, bakery goods, dried fruits, flour, frozen foods, sugar, salt and similar foods in paper or plastic containers should be destroyed.
Other health efforts to remain safe in flood conditions includes the prevention of tetanus. According to the health department, officials with the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health advise all residents to be immunized against tetanus, which is a dangerous disease that effects both adults and children. Protection against tetanus can be achieved by receiving the tetanus vaccine, which is usually combined with the diphtheria in the TD vaccine (tetanus/diphtheria). Those who would like to know whether or not they need a tetanus vaccine, should contact the health department.
For more information on dealing with flood damage, contact the health department at 304-675-3050. Additional help and information also is available by calling the Public Health Sanitation Division of the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health at 304-558-2981 or 1-800-922-1255.