The message about disease prevention from health officials will be the same message you've heard before the rivers rose.
Wash your hands, and whatever else, that comes into contact with water from the flooding, especially if it's standing water in an area contaminated by raw sewage. But you should pretend your mother is saying it, and saying it over and over, with an edge in her voice, like the kind she used when you refused to stay by her side at the grocery store. Don't make them repeat this again: Wash your hands.
"The message now has more meaning," said Kelly Campbell, spokeswoman for the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment, "and we are saying it more forcefully."
The health department is even handing out free tetanus shots at the disaster recovery center housed at the Island Grove Regional Park Events Center. If you haven't had one in 10 years or close to it, and you've been in the floodwaters, those are a good idea, Campbell said. The health department will give them out through Thursday and then reevaluate the need.
Coming into contact with floodwater, even raw sewage, is a low health threat, Campbell said, unless you have an open wound. You should clean up as soon as possible and disinfect your clothes as well.
The problem is the potential for injury is high if you're cleaning up any kind of a flooded area. Sharp edges cause cuts, barb wire can jab, and floodwaters carry both, said Myrna Kamper, a nurse with wellness services at North Colorado Medical Center. Even a tiny cut or opening is enough to cause problems, and a splash in your eye is as well. The floodwater isn't clean, even if it's not the sewage flowing around flooded spots in Evans. The water could be carrying chemicals, oil and gas, residue from feedlots and many other unpleasant things. Even the mud the water leaves behind should be considered contaminated, Kamper said, and all of it could carry e coli, salmonella, giardia and Hepatitis A. There is a Hepatitis A vaccine that's good for life, but that's the only illness listed that has one.
You'll hear the same message you've heard many times about the West Nile Virus, and that's to eliminate as much standing water around your property as possible, Campbell said. But reports that the virus may explode as a result of the flooding may have been exaggerated. The culex tarsalis, the species of mosquito that carries West Nile, are hunkering down in the fall's lower temperatures, not seeking out blood meals. As the fall gets even colder, it should help limit mosquitoes in general. Those areas that do have heavy infestations had them before the flood and probably won't be a problem for much longer.
"We might see a little bump in mosquitoes," Campbell said, "but it should be temporary."
The health department is also concerned about mold, although again, the fall's cooler temperatures should help limit it for now. That, along with many other concerns, may be more of a problem in the spring. ___