Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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January 11, 2014

Potential flooding poses health risk

Indiana weather has not been kind to Hoosiers early in 2014, and it appears more inclement conditions could be on the way this weekend.

According to the National Weather Service, heavy rains are in the forecast for Indiana. That, coupled with the heavy snowfall earlier this week, makes conditions ripe for potential flooding.

State health officials urge Hoosiers to be aware of health risks in the event of a flood and to take steps to protect themselves and their families.

“If we do experience flooding, the water will be frigid,” said Joan Duwve, M.D., chief medical officer at the Indiana State Department of Health. “Wading or being immersed in floodwater can cause dangerously low body temperatures, or hypothermia. Floodwater also contains harmful toxins and bacteria. Keep yourself and your family high and dry if flooding should occur.”

Other potential hazards related to flooding include slippery conditions, poor visibility, floating debris and downed, live wires which can cause electrical shock. Additionally, small cuts or scratches on the skin can make people more susceptible to diseases like tetanus and other pathogens.

Untreated sanitary waste and toxins can end up in waterways and on streets when heavy rain overwhelms sewer systems and treatment plants. Wells and cisterns may also be affected and people who drink, bathe, wash or prepare food with water from a contaminated well during or immediately after a flooding are at risk of contracting a serious illness.

Wells that are located in a flooded area should be assumed to be contaminated. Health officials recommend people discontinue use of the well water until it can be inspected by a professional well contractor. Even when the water recedes, E. coli and other pathogens remain present in pools of standing water.

Some other safety tips for flood are:

• Don’t drive through flooded roads, as cars can be swept away or lose power.

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