As waters recede and people slowly return to their homes in most areas of Chennai, the focus has shifted to prevention of spread of diseases. Here are some do’s and don’ts to follow to protect oneself after a flood :
Ensuring Food and water hygiene
– Drink boiled water to prevent risk of waterborne diseases. Boiling water can increase nitrate levels seen after flooding, young infants and pregnant women should not drink boiled water. Instead, bottled water should be used by pregnant women and for preparing infant formula.
– If you cannot boil water, add six to eight drops of newly purchased 5% unscented liquid household bleach per gallon of water (1 teaspoon to 10 gallons). Stir well and let the water stand for 30 minutes before using it. Remember that bleach will not kill parasitic organisms.
– You can also use water-purifying chlorine tablets to purify water
– Foods that have come in contact with flood waters including canned goods should be discarded.
– Refrigerated food is generally safe if the power has not been off for more than 2 hours. Most freezers will keep food safe without power for 36 to 48 hours if left closed.
– In case of power cuts, the perishable, refrigerated foods including meats, dairy products and eggs that have been without refrigeration for more than 2 hours must be discarded.
Re-entering Flooded Home
– Porous or spongy materials including mattresses, upholstered furniture and carpet that have been saturated with floodwaters should be thrown away. Remove and discard contaminated household goods such as wall coverings that cannot be disinfected.
– Scrub hard surfaces of your home and its dried contents with warm soapy water using laundry detergent.
– Rinse with clear water, and rinse again with bleach solution (1/4 cup of household bleach to 1 gallon of water). Allow the bleach solution to stay in contact with the surfaces for five minutes and rinse again with clear water.
– Avoid skin contact with the solution and use only in well-ventilated areas.
– Wash all clothing in hot soapy water.
– All cleaned items should be thoroughly dried, or mold and mildew will return.
– Utensils can be made safe by dipping them in a solution of one teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water after washing with soap.
Protecting oneself from Electrical Hazards
– Do not handle live electrical equipment in wet areas. Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before returning to service.
– Use flashlights instead of flammable light sources. Gas or other flammables may have been released from flood-damaged containers.
Cleaning and Decontaminating surrounding areas
– Do not allow children to play in floodwaters.
– Children who have been exposed to standing floodwaters should be bathed as soon as possible and watched for signs of infection or disease.
– Personal protective equipment should be worn by caregivers and volunteers like boots and rubber gloves.
– If there is evidence of sewage contamination, disinfect with liberal application of lime. Keep children and animals away from limed areas until the lime is no longer visible.
– Asthmatics, people with allergies, infants and children, pregnant women, people with existing respiratory disease, and people with compromised immune systems should avoid living or working in buildings with wet carpet, walls, mattresses and/or furniture.
– Avoid use of household disinfectant for fungi and mold growth. It may cause breathing problems.