The HSE is advising people to take the following precautions to protect their health during the current period of flooding.
Risks from flood water
Infection problems arising from floods in this country are rare. Usually any harmful bugs in floodwater become very diluted and present a low risk but there are a few precautions that can be taken:
·Wherever possible, try to avoid coming into direct contact with floodwater. If you have to go into the water, wear waterproof gloves and rubber boots and remember to be careful of potentially concealed hazards.
· Do not allow children to play in floodwater areas and wash their hands frequently. Wash and disinfect all toys that may have come into contact with floodwater (soft toys may need to be disposed of if they cannot be thoroughly cleaned).
·Wash your hands – this is the most important way to get rid of harmful bugs. Use clean warm water, if available, with soap. Rinse and dry your hands after going to the toilet, before eating or preparing food, or after being in contact with floodwater, sewage or with items that have been in the water. Use cold water if there is no warm water (or else hand wipes, sanitizers etc. if there is no water at all)
·Keep cuts or sores clean and prevent them from being exposed to floodwater. Wear waterproof plasters. Wounds that are associated with a flood should be assessed by a doctor.
Cleaning up safely after floods
The following outlines some basic precautions to keep you and your family safe while cleaning up your flooded home / business.
- Wash hands with soap and clean water before and after flood cleanup activities
- Cover cuts / sores with waterproof plasters
- Wear waterproof boots, plastic or rubber gloves at a minimum
- Take care with electrics, gas and sharp objects
- Keep children safe and do not allow them to play in floodwater areas.
How and what to clean
- Remove mud /dust
- Scrub hard surfaces with hot soapy water and detergent (including walls, hard-surfaced floors and furniture)
- Wipe over surfaces and disinfect with a weak solution of bleach (following manufacturer’s instructions)
- All food preparation surfaces and equipment must be cleaned thoroughly and disinfected (following manufacturer’s instructions)
- Dispose of any food and associated packaging that had contact with floodwater
- Wash bedclothes and other soft fabric articles such as children’s soft toys on a hot cycle (60oC or higher). This will destroy most germs that may be present. Other contaminated soft furnishings that cannot be put in a washing machine will have to be cleaned professionally. If this is not possible they may have to be discarded.
- Ventilate your home well (open all doors and windows)
- Remember that generators, dehumidifiers and other fuel-driven equipment should never be used indoors without adequate ventilation.
- Allow cleaned surfaces to dry completely as germs and mould thrive in wet conditions
If you feel unwell
If you feel unwell during the current flooding, this does not necessarily mean that you are suffering from any illness associated with flooding. If you are concerned about yourself or a family member you are advised to contact your family doctor.