Tip Sheets

West Nile virus and infectious diseases a concern in flooded areas

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Residents in areas hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma continue their recovery efforts, where a major concern is standing water in homes, streets and populated areas.

Isaac Weisfuse

Medical Epidemiologist

Isaac B. Weisfuse, a medical epidemiologist at Cornell University with more than 25 years of experience in public health at the local and national levels, says it’s important for people to keep themselves healthy as they face the daunting tasks of recovery – and to prepare personal and family emergency plans for the future.

Weisfuse says: 

“Infectious diseases are a particular concern. To help avoid diarrheal illness, they should not eat any contaminated or spoiled food, or any food that has had contact with floodwaters. They should check with local authorities about the water supply, and if boiling water is needed before drinking. Finally, they should use rubber gloves in the clean-up, try to avoid the floodwaters as much as possible, and wash their hands frequently.

“Another cause for concern is from mosquito borne diseases such as West Nile virus. Residents should use long pants and long sleeve shirts, and insect repellent that contains DEET. All standing water should be removed to decrease the mosquito breeding areas. Finally, for those of us thankfully not in the path of Harvey or Irma, now is a good time to create a personal and family plan for dealing with emergencies. Both FEMA and the American Red Cross have good guidance on creating such a plan.”

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