Precaution After A Disaster
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With all of the stormy weather that we have experienced lately, it is very important that we protect ourselves from health risks during clean-up activities.
One of the concerns during clean-up after major storms comes from cuts and scratches from debris removal, when tetanus bacteria can enter the body. Tetanus is usually found in soil, dust, and manure, and can enter the body through breaks in the skin. People usually become infected through deep puncture wounds or cuts, like those made by nails or knives. However, bacteria can enter through even a tiny pinprick or scratch. When tetanus gets into the body it can take up to 3 weeks for the first symptoms to appear. These are usually a headache, crankiness, and spasms of the jaw muscles. The bacteria produce a toxin (poison), which spreads throughout the body, causing painful muscle spasms in the neck, arms, legs, and stomach. Tetanus does not spread from person to person.
Tetanus is a vaccine-preventable disease. There are four combination vaccines used to prevent tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis: DTaP, Tdap, DT, and Td. Two of these (DTaP and DT) are given to children younger than 7 years of age, and two (Tdap and Td) are given to older children and adults. Everyone needs protection from tetanus. If you have not had a booster shot in 10 years or more, you should receive a tetanus shot. If you never had the initial childhood tetanus vaccines, you should receive a series of three tetanus shots. Call your local health department or visit your physician to find out more information.
Other Safety Concerns After a Disaster:
- Wash your hands often with soap and clean water, or use a hand-cleaning gel with alcohol in it.
- Avoid tetanus and other infections by getting medical attention for a dirty cut or deep puncture wound. If you are not up to date on your tetanus vaccine, call the local health department.
- Do not touch fallen electrical wires. They may be live and could hurt or kill you.
- Turn off the electrical power at the main source if there is standing water. Do not turn on power or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.
- Listen to public announcements to find out if local tap water is safe for drinking, cooking, cleaning, or bathing. Until the water is safe, use bottled water or boil or disinfect water. If you have any questions, call your local health department.
- You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to wash your hands.
- Do not eat food that smells bad, looks bad, or has touched floodwater. When in doubt, throw food out.
- If the power is out for less than two hours, then the food in the refrigerator and freezer will be safe to consume. While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep food cold for longer.
- If the power is out for longer than two hours, follow the guidelines below:
- Do not open the freezer door if you can avoid it. A freezer that is half full will hold food safely for up to 24 hours. A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours.
- If possible pack milk, other dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, gravy, and spoilable leftovers into a cooler surrounded by ice. Inexpensive Styrofoam coolers are fine for this purpose.