In light of the adverse weather conditions with prolonged rainfall and severe flooding being experienced in parts of Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is advising individuals to pay special attention to their health, personal hygiene, vector control, food and water safety.
Floods can potentially increase the transmission of communicable diseases including water-borne diseases such as wound and skin infections; and vector-borne diseases including leptospirosis and mosquito-borne diseases.
CARPHA would like to urge individuals living in areas affected by flooding to:
- Stay out of the water as much as possible, as it can greatly reduce your chances of contracting diseases such as skin infections, leptospirosis, diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases.
- Keep children out of the water as they are most at risk of contracting diseases.
- Avoid swimming in flooded canals and trenches as these may be contaminated and can make you sick. .
If you must go into accumulated surface or flood waters:
- Use protective gear such as long boots, gloves and eye protection.
- Prepare a foot bath of ½ cup of bleach to one bucket of water and wash your feet before entering the house.
- Apply Vaseline or oil to your skin as it forms a barrier and provides some protection from the dirty water.
Standing water caused by heavy rainfall or overflow of rivers can also act as breeding sites for mosquitoes, and therefore increase the potential for mosquito-borne diseases. Flooding may initially flush out mosquito breeding, but it comes back when the waters recede.
You can protect yourself and your family against mosquitoes by:
- Sleeping under mosquito nets and using mosquito repellents.
- Ensuring that all water stored around your homes in containers is covered to reduce the breeding of mosquitoes. Remember, the mosquito that spreads the Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya virus breeds in fresh still water (especially rain water) around your home.
Risks from flooding can be greatly reduced if the following food and water safety recommendations are followed
- Use safe water for drinking, cooking, brushing your teeth, making ice and beverages. Safe water is water that is treated with chlorine bleach (add 1/2 teaspoon to 5 gallons of water, cover and let the water stand for 30 minutes before using); water boiled for at least 5 minutes, cool and store in covered containers or sealed bottled water.
- Keep food supplies from contact with flood water. Flood water can contaminate food supplies including dry groceries, vegetables, fruits, cooked foods and beverages.
- Discard all foods that have been in contact with flood waters by placing in a plastic bag and then in covered bins.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables with treated, safe water and peel before eating. Remember to keep all food items and drinking water in covered containers.
- Cook food thoroughly and consume cooked meals within two hours of preparation. Store all remaining food safely in a refrigerator and reheat thoroughly before consuming.
Health risks can also be avoided by practicing good hygiene:
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and safe water or use hand sanitizers, especially before eating meals, after going to the toilet, cleaning children or handling animals and contaminated materials.
- Use toilets to defecate and dispose of baby’s diapers in covered bins. Do not defecate or let faeces get into the flood waters, drains or trenches.
- Secure all household waste and other garbage in plastic bags and store in bins until they are properly removed to approved landfill sites.
- Keep garbage bins covered to avoid pests such as mosquitoes, flies, rats and roaches from entering. Do not dump garbage in drains, trenches, canals and illegal dumping areas around your community.
- Watch out for animals coming into your homes. Rats, roaches, snakes, centipedes and other pests that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours. Keep doors and windows closed or screened to prevent them entering your homes.
Other general safety tips are as follows:
- Turn off the main electrical switch and unplug all appliances and move them to safe areas of your homes if your home is under water. If you suspect electrical wiring has been damaged in your home, turn off the main and have it checked by a qualified person before turning on the power again.
- Secure all important equipment, supplies, medicines, clothing and other items in safe spaces in your homes. Place important documents and valuables in plastic and store them in a safe place.
- If you or any family member experiences fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rash, cuts, bruises or other conditions, please seek medical attention immediately.