After the Flood – Frequently Asked Questions About Public Health Issues

AFTER THE FLOODS – PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERNS

Q: I am concerned about my well water because flooding has surrounded my well and may have passed the top, what should I do to make sure it is still safe?

A: If the water was right around your well and you didn’t notice any change in appearance or smell, you should test the water to confirm that it is still safe. You can get water test bottles at several locations in Lewis County, including the Lewis County Public Health Laboratory located at 360 NW North Street in Chehalis, 360-740-1222. Until you receive the results of your water test, treat your water, for treatment instructions see: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/331-115-PrinterFriendly.pdf

Q: I am concerned about my well water because flood water has passed over my well and / or my water has changed (color, smell or just looks different), is it still safe?

A: Flood water can contain contaminants like fertilizers, bacteria and chemicals and if the water goes over your well or if your well is damaged, they can enter the well and contaminate it. Do not drink well water that has changed in some way or has been submerged in flood water. Contact Lewis County Public Health at 360-740-2691 to speak with our trained staff to discuss your situation. Until you know the water is safe, do not use it for drinking or preparing food. Use bottled water or check out other drinking water options on the Lewis County Department of Emergency Management webpage.

Q: I am concerned about my exposure to tetanus, what can I do?

A: If you’ve been vaccinated against tetanus in the past 10 years, you should be fine. If you can’t remember the date of your last tetanus shot and you’ve been through floodwaters, cleaned up flood debris, and have scrapes and / or cuts, you should get your shot. tetanus as soon as possible. You can get this coverage at the office of your usual health care provider.

Q: If I was in flood water, am I at risk for hepatitis A?

A: No, being exposed to flood water does not increase the risk of getting hepatitis A. Many people have been vaccinated against hepatitis A.

Q: How do I know if my food has been contaminated?

A: All food in contact with flood water should be discarded. Fresh produce that has been contaminated should also be discarded. Canned foods should have labels (which can contain dirt and germs) removed and be washed in a bleach solution containing 1 tablespoon of bleach per 1 gallon of water. You can relabel the boxes with a permanent marker. All utensils and kitchen utensils should be sanitized in a bleach solution or boiled in water for 10 minutes. Allow boxes and utensils to air dry for at least an hour before opening or putting them away.

Q: How can I make sure my house is clean after the flood waters have receded?

A: Use a general disinfectant or even a bleach / water solution to wipe down any surfaces that have been covered with flood water. Wash all clothing that has been exposed to flood water or mud and dry it on a high heat if possible. If you have carpet that has been flooded, you will need to have it cleaned and dried within 24 to 48 hours or, if the flooding was more severe, remove and throw it away.

Q: Can I shower or bathe in water that may be contaminated?

A: Yes, unless you have an open wound your risk of exposure is minimal: your risk of getting sick from contaminated water is greater if you take water in your mouth.

Stay clean and safe

Here are 3 simple things you can do to stay clean and safe in an area that could be contaminated:

  • Wash your hands – do this often, especially if you’ve been outside or touched something on the ground outside. A waterless hand sanitizer can be used if the tap water is contaminated.
  • If there has been no flooding in your home, take off your shoes before entering. If possible, leave them outside the house on a porch or just inside the house on a piece of plastic that can be thrown away every few days. If pets are allowed outside, wash their feet when they enter the house.
  • Do not allow children and pets to play in areas that could be contaminated, which could include your yard if it was covered with flood water. Toys (children’s toys and animals) which have come into contact with a contaminated area should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Q: How should I clean something that has been contaminated, such as toys?

A: Mix a solution of 1 cup of bleach to 5 gallons of water to disinfect toys and other solid surfaces such as concrete or decks. Animals that may have been in contaminated areas should be washed with soap or shampoo.

Who can I contact for more information?

Contact your doctor if you have any symptoms, sores, or rashes that you need to get checked out. Contact the Lewis County Public Health Department at

(360) 740-1222 if you have any questions or concerns regarding the tetanus vaccination, your water or septic system, or exposure to contamination.

Published on 10/01/2022

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