Hurricane Sandy Making People Sick? Sandy Aftermath: Illness

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Hurricane Sandy damages NJ pier. Photo by: Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/U.S. Air Force/New Jersey National Guard

Hurricane Sandy not only brought devastation and physical damage to the East Coast, but in the days and weeks to come we may start seeing people developing rashes, allergies, digestive tract infections, and other illnesses due to the contaminated water and mold growing inside flooded homes and buildings.

When items in homes and buildings are wet for more than two days, mold spores begin to grow and can cause unhealthy air in your home.

Flooding and Mold: Making People Sick

People with allergies, asthma, or other lung issues are more at risk for being affected by mold and may have a more severe reaction.

These people should not stay inside a home or building that has not been cleaned and completely dried from a flood. Mold exposure reactions can include: congestion, eye irritation, cough, skin and throat irritation, respiratory problems, and headaches.

Sandy Aftermath: Possible Illnesses

The Operational Biosurveillance is forecasting six different illnesses that could occur after Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey.

  • Coronavirus
  •  Influenza
  • Parainfluenza
  • Rotavirus
  • Strep pharyngitis (strep throat)
  • Croup

When people are sharing living spaces like in shelters, germs are easily passed from person to person. We are also at the beginning of the flu season and many people may not have received their flu shot yet, thus making people more likely to catch the flu. The good news is that New York and New Jersey are both reporting minimal flu activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report.  However, we may see influenza cases increase as people remain in shelters.

It is also important to be aware of flood waters that could be contaminated with sewage. It may be difficult to know if the water is contaminated, so it is best to treat all flood water as if it is contaminated. Accidentally ingesting contaminated water can make you very sick.

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