Baton Rouge, LA -- Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness are warning Louisianans affected by the recent flooding that they could be at risk for a variety of hidden dangers as they begin the recovery process in the aftermath of the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Allison.
"We are especially concerned about an increase in mosquito populations here and the possibility of mosquito-borne illness such as encephalitis," said State Coordinating Officer Art Jones. "While most of these mosquitoes will merely be pests and not carry communicable diseases, we are encouraging flood victims to take some important precautions, such as emptying items that may collect standing water that could provide a home for mosquitoes."
Mosquitoes are a problem statewide and not just in the disaster area. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there is no evidence to date of disease activity, but the storm can be expected to prompt an increase in mosquito numbers. CDC notes that there is an incubation period of at least two weeks for mosquitoes that could potentially carry an illness. Surveillance is in place to monitor disease risk and parish and local mosquito control programs are doing larval and adult control as needed. Meanwhile, CDC recommends that residents actively take steps to eliminate breeding grounds around their homes. These actions will greatly reduce the population of mosquitoes.
In addition, officials are providing the following advise in connection with mosquito-related problems:
- Repair all screen doors and windows that may provide access for mosquitoes.
- Minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn.
- Wear long sleeve shirt and long pants when spending time outdoors in likely mosquito habitat.
- When outdoors, use insect repellent containing DEET, according to instructions on the label.
- Empty all containers that hold water and turn over garbage cans, wheel barrows and spare tires.
- Horse owners should consider vaccinating their animals against eastern equine encephalitis.
Following are other important steps flood victims can take to minimize health risks:
- Homeowners should assume that anything touched by floodwater is contaminated. Mud left by floodwater can contain chemicals from sources as varied as your garden to a neighbor's propane tank, or even cleaner stored in the kitchen. Remove as much mud as possible.
- Homes with flood damage may have damp areas where molds, mildews and fungal organisms thrive. A combination of household bleach and soap or detergent can be used to wash down walls, floors and other contaminated areas.
- Once you have checked your water system for leaks, hose down the inside of the house and its contents. It is best to use an attachment that sprays soap to wash and rinse the walls, floors, furniture, sockets, electrical boxes and other major items that got muddy. Ensure the power is off for the entire house during this process and until the electrical system has had time to dry. Always wash your hands with soap and clean water after working in the area.
- Remove heating and cooling registers and ducts, and hose the ducts to prevent future contamination. After hosing ductwork, wash with a disinfectant or sanitizer that is phenolic or pine-based. If ducts are in a slab or otherwise inaccessible, have them cleaned professionally.
- Household appliances such as dishwasher and ovens may have survived the flooding, but contain wet insulation. Remove, clean and dry the ins...