Health Concerns after Hurricane Irma

2017 will be remembered as one of the most destructive hurricane seasons in our lifetimes. Hurricane Harvey’s unrelenting rain in Texas, followed by Hurricane Irma’s destruction in the islands and the Florida coast, were natural disasters of epic proportions. In Florida alone, Irma caused more than 40 deaths. Even though the storm is long gone and the floodwaters have receded, there still remain serious health risks.

According to a recent article on Vox, physicians in both Texas and Florida are preparing for an increase in conditions related to coastal storms and flooding, including respiratory problems, skin infections, mosquito-borne diseases, and mental health problems after the storms. If you have concerns about your exposure to viruses, mold, or pollutants, talk to your doctor or make an appointment at Women’s Care Florida.

Hurricane Irma’s lingering health risks:

  • Skin infections caused by exposure to bacteria and viruses in floodwaters. The Florida Department of Health has released several warnings to residents to avoid direct contact with floodwaters that may contain sewage and fecal matter, as well as agricultural and industrial waste. If you have a wound that develops redness, swelling or drainage, see a physician. The DOH also recommends thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting household items that may have been in floodwaters.
  • Respiratory problems caused by mold. Moisture left behind by flooding creates a perfect environment for the spread of molds in homes and businesses. Exposure to mold spores can cause respiratory infections and aggravate allergies and asthma. For some people, these conditions can lead to coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer these tips to protect yourself from mold growth and exposure.
  • Mosquito-borne illnesses. Hurricane flooding can increase mosquitos’ breeding opportunities and the spread of diseases such as West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis. And while we’re at the end of the transmission season for 2017 (peak between August and October), there remains a long-term risk of increased occurrences of mosquito-borne illnesses spread by people traveling between the Caribbean islands and the US.
  • Short- and long-term mental health problems. Weathering a hurricane – being forced to evacuate your home, the destruction of property, or the loss of a loved one – can cause severe stress and for a percentage of the population, can lead to long-term mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or depression. Counseling and support services can be found through local care providers or organizations such as the Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990) a national hotline for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster.

If you have concerns about your health or your family’s health as a result of recent storms, we recommend you contact your doctor or health care provider. Find a physician at Women’s Care Florida by clicking here.