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Health officials issue alert over Hurricane Matthew floodwaters

Volusia County Health Department concerned about fecal matter

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Department of Health in Volusia County on Thursday issued an alert over floodwaters associated with Hurricane Matthew.

The Category 4 storm is forecast to bring heavy rain, storm surges and flooding to the region.

"Although skin contact with rising water does not, by itself, pose a serious health risk, health hazards are a concern when waters become contaminated," health officials said. "Floodwaters may contain fecal material with associated bacteria and viruses."

The Department of Health in Volusia County recommends the following precautions to prevent possible illness from flood waters:

  • Basic hygiene is critical. Wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected before preparing or eating food, after toilet use, after participating in flood-cleanup activities, and after handling articles contaminated with floodwater or sewage.
  • Avoid eating or drinking anything that has been contaminated with floodwaters.
  • Do not wade through standing water. If you must do do, bathe and put on clean clothes as soon as possible.
  • Avoid contact with floodwaters if you have open cuts or sores. If you have any open cuts or sores and cannot avoid contact with floodwaters, keep the cuts as clean as possible by washing well with soap to control infection. If a wound develops redness, swelling or drainage, seek immediate medical attention. Residents who sustain lacerations and/or puncture wounds and have not had a tetanus vaccination within the past 10 years require a tetanus booster.
  • If there is a backup of sewage into your house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup. Remove and discard absorbent household materials, such as wall coverings, cloth, rugs, and drywall. Clean walls and hard-surfaced floors with soap and water and disinfect with a solution of 1/4 cup of bleach to one gallon of water.  Thoroughly disinfect food-contact surfaces (countertops, refrigerators, tables) and areas where small children play. Wash all linens and clothing in hot water. Air dry larger items in the sun and spray them with a disinfectant. Steam clean all carpeting.

If plumbing is functioning slowly or sluggishly, residents should: 

  • Conserve water as much as possible. The less water used, the less sewage the septic tank must process or a sewer line needs to handle. Minimize use of your washing machine. Go to a laundromat. Rental of a portable toilet for a temporary period may be another option.
  • Do not have the septic tank pumped. Exceptionally high water tables might crush a septic tank that was pumped dry. If the fundamental problem is high groundwater, pumping the tank does nothing to solve that problem.
  • If you cannot use your plumbing without creating a sanitary nuisance (i.e. without sewage being exposed), consider moving to a new location until conditions improve.
  • Do not have the septic tank and drain field repaired until the ground has dried. Often systems are completely functional when dry conditions return. Any repair must be permitted and inspected by your county health department.

For more information, please visit floridadisaster.org.