Medical experts are concerned of the possible health issues and disease risks that will pop up, following two of the biggest natural disasters America and its neighbouring countries have seen: Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

If the effects of previous disasters are anything to go by, local doctors in these areas can expect cases of respiratory symptoms, people affected by carbon monoxide, mould, and several diseases in the water that was generated from the floodwater and standing water.

The possible situations that are considered health hazards – and can cause people to become sick – include mosquitoes, polluted air, contaminated water, contagious diseases, carbon monoxide, infected wounds, and mould.

Respiratory infections with the air pollution

The process of people moving back to their homes after these disasters itself is considered hazardous to their health. Take the air surrounding the impacted area for instance. People with lung conditions should be very careful of the polluted air they breathe by wearing N95 masks.

Albert Rizzo, MD, senior medical adviser for the American Lung Association, expressed that “going back into the flood environment has risks. Wearing some type of protective mask might be advisable. The smaller the particles [of contaminants], the more troublesome.”

Previous studies have shown how most young people, who have managed to survive hurricanes, have ended up with upper and lower respiratory infections. This time, people can avoid the air situation by staying indoors when the air pollution is really bad on the outside.

Then, there’s the gas and carbon situation. Experts are against the people using a generator inside a home if it’s not located 20 feet from a spot that links to outside. It is heavily advised that residents should only use generators that have been professionally installed and vented.

If carbon monoxide, especially from portable generators, is accidentally inhaled, it can cause sudden illness and even death. Despite the fact that there are strong symptoms that come with accidentally inhaling carbon dioxide, some people can die from its poisoning without knowing anything first.

The dangers of mould and skin infections

As far as the side effects of mould is concerned, medical experts say that it can be a potential irritant, particularly for those who already have a lung problem. The best thing that people can do is to quickly clean up by either removing it the affected items or using a professional mould service.

The most popular form of diseases comes from floodwaters and standing water that are brought in and affected by hurricanes. Floodwater is dangerous if its water is accidentally swallowed. Due to the sewage and toxic chemicals that it contains, it can instantly cause stomach problems.

Some people in Houston have already been complaining to their doctors about the skin infections they got after being exposed to floodwaters. It is well-known that wounds that tend to stay wet after some time are going to be infected and those affected have to get to a hospital before they start feeling sick.

Even a first responder couldn’t escape a flesh-eating bacteria when he was out helping people in his town after the hurricane hit. J.R. Atkins woke up with swelling on his arm, which worked its way all onto his wrist and down his hand. He had to seek urgent medical care and is still in the hospital waiting to fully recover.

Unfortunate encounter: J.R. Atkins was kayaking through floodwaters to check on his neighbours in Missouri City, Texas last week when he was infected with the deadly bacteria. Photo credit: NY Dailynews
Unfortunate encounter: J.R. Atkins was kayaking through floodwaters to check on his neighbours in Missouri City, Texas last week when he was infected with the deadly bacteria. Photo credit: NY Dailynews

Mixing with other people at the local shelters

In the brink of the moment when the hurricanes strike, people are forced to leave their homes to stay at their neighbouring shelters. Aside from having a place to stay, these people are also exposed to other people, who have sickness or infections on them.

It is how many diseases are spread as well and these include colds, intestinal distress, and other diseases that have the ability to spread quickly and affect people with weak immune systems.

If worrying about sicknesses from other people is not enough, survivors of hurricanes have to also think of insects, especially mosquitoes. Medical experts advise that the best way to combat this is to wear insect repellent and get rid of standing water. MIMS

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