Friday, September 19, 2008

Ike's Aftermath

While the news media are full of stories about the wreckage wrought by Hurricane Ike, especially in and around Galveston, the Texas Department of State Health Services has been doing its best to ward off outbreaks of water-borne and food-borne illness in the aftermath of the hurricane.

The Texas DSHS yesterday warned residents of Galveston Island to leave the area, if they had not already done so, in order to avoid the possibility of contracting an infectious disease. Health authorities reminded residents that:

  • There is no running water.
  • There are no wastewater services.
  • Toilets have not been flushed in almost a week.
  • There is limited or no electrical power.
  • The only medical care available is temporary urgent care.

Under these conditions, people who choose to remain in the area risk:

  • water-borne disease due to a lack of potable water and an inability to boil water in the absence of electrical power;
  • food-borne disease due to the lack of refrigeration of perishable foods and the possibility that food might have become contaminated with untreated wastewater; and 
  • the absence of medical care in the event of a health emergency

In a second warning, issued today, Texas warned residents of the state "... not to use any food, drugs, medical devices or cosmetics that have been discarded by stores or pharmacies ..." as these items may have become contaminated during the hurricane, or as a result of flooding after the hurricane, or may have become damaged as a result of exposure to contaminated water, high temperatures, or high humidity.

People who fled the hurricane's path, and those who opted to remain in their homes should heed these warnings. Please wait until DSHS announces that it is safe to return home before doing so. Your health is more important than your home.

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