APIC: 6 tips for infection prevention after a hurricane

Flooding after a hurricane can facilitate the spread of infection in several ways, including flushing sewage into the street, creating optimal conditions for mold proliferation and increasing the risk of people developing wounds susceptible to infection.

Here are six tips for preventing infections in the aftermath of a hurricane from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

1. Hand hygiene: Engaging in regular hand-washing is critical to preventing infections during the emergency response period. If local water supplies are contaminated, use bottled water for hand-washing.

2. Fight mold: When possible, clean out the damaged home within 24 hours to 48 hours to prevent mold growth. Also, have the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system checked before turning it on to avoid the spread of mold throughout the house.

3. Cleaning tips: Wear rubber gloves, clean with a solution of 1 cup of bleach per gallon of water and open doors and windows for air circulation. Don't mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaners.

4. Dust mask: Only use a dust mask during activities that may stir up mold spores or excessive dust. Wearing a mask for too long can put stress on the lungs and heart.

5. Food and water safety: Follow local officials' instructions for the use of bottled water. Boil water for a minute to kill bacteria before using it to cook, clean or bathe. Discard all perishable food items that may have come into contact with floodwaters, including canned food.

6. Wound care: Immediately clean all wounds with soap and decontaminated or bottled water. If you have not received a tetanus shot in the last five years, see your healthcare provider. Additionally, seek medical help if a wound swells, reddens or drains. 

More articles on infection control: 
Hawaii health officials say mumps outbreak could last another year — 280+ cases identified 
Floodwater injuries, mold and more: 7 likely health ramifications after Hurricane Harvey 
Minnesota's largest measles outbreak in decades is officially over

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