The aftermath of Sandy is going to take some clearing up, anybody can work that out, but aside from the seawater damage, blown electrics, downed trees and all the visible damage that needs to be sorted there’s a great deal you might not see right away that will need your attention.
Wildlife will be on the move in every area that has been inundated. Spiders, snakes, rodents and insects will all make their way, quickly to higher, drier ground. In addition the the obvious, bites from these creatures some of them, namely rodents, will bring with them diseases that can have an effect on humans. Rats, mice, squirrels and a myriad of other small furries will be in closer contact with humans and domestic pets giving rise to an inevitable increase in the diseases they carry. These range from leptospirosis to bubonic plague. These animals will move into areas where they can make a dry nest and find food. Exercise care when putting out and clearing garbage, an animal that feels threatened will attack. When clearing up make sure you wear protective clothing, particularly on you hands and feet, to act as a barrier for the viruses and bacteria you will most likely be coming into contact with.
There is likely to be animal carcasses in rivers and streams and ALL water supplies that are not potable should be treated with suspicion in these circumstances. It should be boiled and chlorinated regardless of how reliable the supply was prior to the flooding. In addition animals that have not made it will be left on roads, gardens etc when the flood recedes and they should be handled with extreme caution.
Colds and flu will spread easily through groups of people in shelters, community halls etc. those who have been evacuated to any kind of mass centre should wash their hands frequently and limit contact with those outside of their immediate group. Supplied cutlery etc should be wiped prior to use, as should the edges of cups and glasses. If possible eat pre-packed sandwiches that have not been handled by anyone at the evacuation centre, and for things that can be eaten cold direct from a can, it’s advisable to do so.
Areas without power may also have no municipally treated water. Diseases such as typhus spread easily after disasters, the lice that cause it are present all the time in some sectors of the community and if water for washing and laundry is limited these lice will spread easily through the wider population. If you find any lice in your clothing bag all the clothes you are wearing and tie it up tightly. It needs to be left for seven days, preventing the lice from feeding. Get yourself into a shower at a community centre or shelter that has water and avoid scratching any bites. The bites themselves are not likely to cause typhus, it’s the transfer of infected faeces around the bite into the open area that triggers infection and this happens when you scratch.
Any sign of fever after a disaster such as this should be taken seriously, particularly if you have had to move through the floodwater and if you have access to medical professionals you should consult them as soon as possible. Flood water is likely to be contaminated with human faeces, particularly in the city where the sewerage and drainage systems have failed to cope. Its obvious that this water should be avoided where possible. If you do have to wade through it cover all scratches and cuts with waterproof dressings, and put plastic garbage bags over your feet, taping them high up on your legs before putting on boots and shoes. Wash your hands thoroughly before putting fingers anywhere near your eyes nose or mouth, this is very important in the elderly, children and those who are generally debilitated as their immune system is not as strong as it would be in a healthy adult.
I wish all those who have been caught up in this situation love and prayers and I hope your lives return to normal as soon as possible.
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Contributed by Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic.
Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.