The historic flooding in South Carolina’s capital has made national headlines, as the city of 800,000 people has been covered with water. Now that the rain has calmed down and residents are back to look at damages, there are also health concerns to pay attention to, officials say.
Following the general protocol for after flooding, residents served by the City of Columbia water system need to boil their water before drinking or cooking with it. The water system has experienced several pipeline ruptures, which may make the water unsafe, but residents will kill most of the disease-causing bacteria if they boil it.
If boiling isn’t an option, regular and unscented bleach also gets the job done.
Symptoms of drinking contaminated water range, and are similar to that of food poisoning. Those symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, cramps and/or mild fever, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The best remedy is staying hydrated by drinking uncontaminated water.
Another issue residents need to be aware of is the remaining flood water. Simply touching that water can make you sick, officials warn.
Because the water contains things such as oil, chemicals, and sewage, residents can contract serious illnesses by coming into contact with the water. The CDC says that if residents do touch the water, they need to wash up with soap and water as soon as possible to avoid sickness.
To avoid issues like trench foot from wading through water, officials say residents should clean up and then allow their feet to fully dry out.
Flooding can also cause an increased number of accidents. In fact, the Department of Transportation blocked hundreds of roads, plus a 75-mile stretch of Interstate 95, in an attempt to keep residents safe.
Residents should be careful to avoid tree debris, vehicles, utility boxes, and other general debris. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many suffered falls, bruises, and broken bones while attempting to go back to their homes to clean up.
Mold is another huge issue that will linger a bit longer than many of the other dangers we’ve listed. It manifests in the wood or sheetrock of buildings, and that water damage and mold cost insurance companies around $2.5 billion annually.
Because mold grows best in warm and damp environments, flooded homes in a state like South Carolina are at a significant risk. Those whose homes were affected by flooding should make sure to let those areas dry and throw away items with mold on them; clothing and stuffed animals can be washed in hot water.
Mold can also cause respiratory problems and skin issues. Those with allergies or weak immune systems are at an especially high risk.
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an immune-mediated disease, may be caused if you have prolonged exposure to mold, and long term ingestion can lead to cancer.
Floodwaters, mosquitoes, and unsanitary living conditions in a climate like South Carolina can be dangerous, so residents should be aware of any symptoms they exhibit.