Winneshiek County Public Health reminds you to stay safe when cleaning up flood waters. The recent heavy rains, and more anticipated have resulted in some area basements filling with water.

Do not drive or walk into the flood waters. You cannot be sure of the depth or if the road or bridge is truly present. The water moves fast and it only takes a small amount of water to move a vehicle. Children and adults should not swim in floodwaters no matter how good of a swimmer you may be. The water just moves too fast and many times there is floating debris such as large tree branches making the waters dangerous.

As a homeowner, you’ll want to get the water out of the basement. Before you enter the basement, turn off the electricity and fuel service valves, and check the outside walls for cracks and other damage. Wear protective clothing such as long pants, long sleeved shirts and boots when working near flood waters. Flood waters can become contaminated from human and livestock wastes or chemicals being washed from farms and fields. These can carry deadly bacteria. You may need to put in a sump pump to pump the water out of the basement. These are available at most hardware stores.

You will want to dry things out as quickly as possible. This may mean using a dehumidifier or fans. To disinfect items such as the walls and floors, it is suggested to add ½ to 1 cup of bleach to a gallon of soap and water. Some discoloration may occur. Start from the top of the water line and work down to the floor. Wood floors need to be cleaned per manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure to wear gloves when working with bleach water.

You will need to throw away things that you cannot clean or wash. Examples of these would be mattresses, carpet and sheetrock. To launder items, it is recommended you use hot water, laundry detergent and either chlorine bleach or all-fabric bleach, depending on the colors and fabrics. Wash contaminated clothes from uncontaminated clothes.

Do not eat foods that have been in contact with floodwaters. This is especially true for foods such as cereals and crackers and other items found in cardboard boxes. Canned goods may be kept provided there are no signs of leaking or swelling. Wash cans in hot soapy water before opening.

This is always a good time to check the status of your most recent tetanus shot if you are working in flood waters or standing water. If you have an open sore or cut and are working in the waters that are dirty and contaminated, you may be at increased risk for a disease called tetanus(lockjaw). Tetanus is a preventable disease when given a vaccination and that protection is up to date with a booster shot at least every 10 years.
The following is information from the Iowa Department of Public Health:
(Lockjaw disease)
What is tetanus?
Tetanus is a disease caused by a toxin formed by the bacteria Clostridium tetani. It grows without oxygen at the site of an injury and has a short and relatively severe course that is often fatal.
What are the symptoms of a tetanus infection?
The illness is characterized by painful muscle contractions, especially stiffness and convulsive spasms of the jaw and neck muscles and the upper body or trunk muscles. A common first sign of tetanus in older children and adults is painful stiffness of stomach muscles.
How soon do symptoms appear?
Illness usually starts in 3 – 21 days, although it may occur as soon as 1 day depending on the type and location of the wound; the average is 10 days. A shorter time to illness is associated with a dirtier wound and more severe illness.
How does tetanus spread?
Tetanus spores are introduced into the body, usually through a puncture wound dirty with soil or animal or human feces. They may also be introduced through cuts, scraps, burns and trivial or unnoticed wounds, or by infected, contaminated street drugs. Tetanus may follow elective surgery, ear infections, or dental infection. Tetanus is not spread from human to human.
Who gets tetanus?
Anyone may get the illness, regardless of age. If a person has suffered a wound or injury and has not been adequately immunized against tetanus and received a booster shot every ten years, tetanus may occur. Most current cases occur in older adults who have not gotten a booster shot every 10 years to maintain protection.
For how long is a person infectious?
There is no infectious period because tetanus in not spread from person-to-person. Tetanus is the only vaccine-preventable disease that is not contagious.
What is the treatment for this illness?
Antibiotics play almost no role in the treatment of tetanus. Other drugs may be used by the healthcare provider.
Do infected people need to be excluded from school, work, or child care?
No, tetanus in not spread from person-to-person.
What can be done to help prevent the spread of tetanus?
Tetanus can be prevented by vaccination and keeping that protection up-to-date with a booster shot every 10 years.

If you have questions about water safety or sewage backing up into your home, please contact the Winneshiek County Environmental Health Specialist, Doug Groux at 563-387-4120

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