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Mississippi State Department of Health Warns of Possible Hazards Before the Storm

GCN   8/29/08

In preparation for Hurricane Gustav, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reminds all Mississippians that hurricane readiness should begin before the storm by establishing emergency plans (for your shelter), disaster kits (a one-week supply of prescriptions, important papers, non-perishable food, water, etc.), and remaining mindful that power outages can impact your health and the safety of your food and drinking water.

The MSDH offers the following health suggestions for emergency preparedness:

Water

Storms often bring water supply contamination and boil water notices issued by your local water associations or the MSDH. If your area is officially notified that emergency water purification is necessary, the MSDH advises the following:

§  Vigorously boil water for at least a full minute before using.

§  If you cannot boil water, disinfect by adding unscented chlorine bleach in these amounts: two drops of bleach for each quart of clear water or four drops of bleach for each quart of muddy or dirty water. Let the water stand at least 30 minutes before using.

§  Basic hygiene is very important during an emergency period. It is important to have waterless hand sanitizer as well as disinfected water and soap with which to clean hands if clean or disinfected water is not available.

Food

  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with contaminated water from floods or tidal surges.
  • Commercially prepared cans of food can be eaten unless there is a dent or bulge in the can.
  • Only frozen food that is still frozen or remains “refrigerator cold” is safe to eat.
  • Stock freezers with plenty of ice before the storm hits.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas, and is highly poisonous. Take the following precautions to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

§  Only use grills or generators outside. Do not use grills or generators inside a house, garage or any enclosed space.

§  Symptoms of CO poisoning may include fatigue, weakness, chest pains for those with heart disease, shortness of breath upon exertion, nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, lack of coordination, impaired vision, loss of consciousness, and in severe cases, death.

§  If you suspect you are experiencing any symptoms of CO poisoning, open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and go outside. In cases of severe CO poisoning, call 911 emergency services or the Mississippi Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Mosquitoes

  • Heavy rains and flooding can lead to an increase in mosquitoes. Rid your property of standing water as soon as possible to prevent mosquito breeding.
  • Avoid mosquito-prone areas, especially between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear protective clothing (such as long-sleeved shirts and pants) when in mosquito-prone areas, and apply a DEET-based mosquito repellent according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Wild Animals and Rabies

Avoid wild animals, which may become disoriented or aggressive after a flood or hurricane.  Although rabies has not been found in any land animal in Mississippi for more than 30 years, rabies has been identified in bats in Mississippi.

§  Secure all food sources to prevent attracting wild animals and strays.

§  Snakes also pose a risk.  They may hide in places around your home after flooding.

§  In case of animal bites or any type of contact with bats, you should wash the bite or any noticeable wound with soap and clean water, and seek medical attention.

Vibrio

Vibrio vulnificus bacteria live in warm seawater.  V. vulnificus can cause illness when an open wound is exposed to seawater, or when a person eats contaminated seafood.  Skin infections may lead to skin breakdown and ulceration and to bloodstream infections that can be fatal, expecially among people who are immunocompromised.  Eating raw contaminated seafood – especially oysters - may cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.  Immunocompromised individuals, particularly those with chronic liver disease, are also likely to develop a bloodstream infection, with fever and chills, blistering skin lesions possibly death.

§  Avoid exposure of broken skin to seawater. Wounds exposed to seawater should be washed with soap and water as soon as possible.

§  If you have a compromised immune system, expecially chronic liver disease, do not eat raw oysters

§  If you have wounds or any symptoms of infection, seek medical help immediately.

Tetanus

Anyone who is planning to assist in hurricane cleanup activities and  who has not had a tetanus booster within the last 10 years receive one.  Call your local health department for vaccine availability. Individuals who sustain lacerations, puncture wounds or any other serious wound are advised to seek medical attention.

For more information on hurricane preparedness or if you would like to volunteer during emergencies, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com or call us 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-866-HLTHY4U (1-866-458-4948).

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