Since Hurricane Irma and Harvey touched down on the state of Texas a few weeks back, many streets and roads are still flooded and filled with water. For weeks now, many health experts have warned against going in the water since the water has been contaminated by sewage and a host of other factors.
Floodwater contamination also includes the risks of chemicals, solvents, and bacteria in the soil, dust, and manure.
More recently, a 77-year-old woman died after getting an infection from what is commonly known as ‘flesh-eating’ bacteria.
The flood waters around Florida and Texas have been heavily contaminated after being filled with sewage after overwhelming local sewage systems and also from the open ocean which has been pulled into urban areas from the storm.
Nancy Reed was 77 years old when she fell and broke her arm inside of a flooded house in Houston. This caused the contaminated floodwater to seep into her open wound, causing a life-ending infection.
According to Rachel Noble who is a professor of marine biology, she suspects that the infection is Vibrio. Vibrio is a marine microbe that could potentially be deadly for anyone with an open wound.
In an interview with Business Insider, Rachel said: ‘I have very little information to go on, but the speed with which she became severely ill, and the symptoms and descriptions match.’
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, five people died from Vibrio infections and another 22 limbs had to be amputated because of the infections.
Richard Bradley who is the chief of emergency medical services and disaster medicine at the University of Texas’s McGovern Medical School stated that due to the high bacterial count in the floodwater, the chances of getting a skin infection increase dramatically.
In an interview with Time, Richard said: ‘floodwater mixes with everything below it. If it covers a field with pesticides, it picks up the pesticides. It can also carry animal waste from fields and forests.’
In the interview with Business Insider, Rachel said: ‘if people are exposed to floodwaters and things that came in contact with flood waters, they need to be vigilant … they need to be seen, and they need to not sleep on the wounds.’
‘These things can progress over a 10 hour period to a point of no return requiring amputation.’
She went on to say that anyone who has come in contact with floodwater and has infection-like symptoms should really keep a close eye on their open wounds.
If the areas become ‘hot and angry’ or if they become red and raised then that could be a warning sign for Vibrio. Other warning signs include fever and chills.
Besides contaminated water, residents also need to be concerned about wet environments that can cause mold in their homes and also standing water which tends to attract mosquitoes and other pests.