As the cleanup continues in the path of Hurricane Idalia which made landfall on Florida’s Gulf coast Wednesday as a Category 3 storm, officials are warning about the lingering risks, like the toxic stew. Sure, the Big Bend area took the brunt of the damage, but two days after making landfall well to our north, residents of Tampa Bay are still grappling with flooded yards and, unfortunately, homes.
Some of the effects of the storm have nothing to do with sustained winds or prolonged storm surge. Instead, its now about the disgusting risks that those forces brought to our doorsteps…risks like flesh-eating bacteria, mosquitos and mold.
At a news conference Thursday, Florida’s Surgeon General, Joseph Ladapo urged Floridians to take precautions after Idalia to ensure their own health as well as the health of those around them. Here’s some of the dangers that were highlighted at the briefing:
- Vibrio Vulnificus: It’s an infection caused by a flesh-eating bacteria that thrives in floodwaters. 38 cases were reported last year in Lee and Collier counties following Ian. Most of the time people get infected by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, but some Vibrio species get their hooks in you by causing an infection when an open wound is exposed to salt or brackish water. 20% of people who get the infection will die from it.
- Mosquitos are another huge problem in the wake of the storm. Standing water is a petri dish for them, and is likely to produce an uptick in mosquito-borne illnesses like Malatia and dengue. There were already 11 cases reported locally this summer before the storm, and that number is sure to explode now. Use bug spray, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay away from standing water, especially at sunset.
- Mold is one of the risks that develop inside the home, not outside. It only takes a day or two for mold to develop in a flooded home, according to the Cleveland Clinic, and our humidity levels speed up the process even more. Some people only get watery eyes or a slight cough, but for those who have asthma or immune disorders are susceptible to fungal infections that could become quite serious. FEMA says to use fans to dry out the home. I say, call a water mitigation expert.
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