Biggest health threats from Hurricane Harvey flooding

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, as reports of destruction from torrential rains and flooding continue to come in, a number of health hazards put Texas residents at risk.

More than 10 deaths have been attributed to Harvey, which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, and thousands of people were forced to their rooftops or higher ground, overwhelming emergency workers who could not keep up with calls for help.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price declared a public health emergency in response to Harvey, and has sent more than 500 personnel and tons of medical supplies to the region.

As the rains continue and floodwater keeps rising, there are several health risks to keep in mind.

Drowning and injuries from floodwater

Floodwater poses a drowning risk for everyone, even for those who are strong swimmers. Swiftly moving shallow water can be deadly, quickly sweeping away anyone and anything in its path.

Experts warn not to rely on a vehicle for protection, as it can be swept away or stall in moving water. Even a big rig truck driver found himself stranded on a Houston street and in desperate need of rescue.

Beware of fallen power lines. Never approach them and report any downed lines to authorities.

Finally, floodwaters may contain dangerous sharp objects such as glass or metal debris, and the uneven terrain beneath the water can be hazardous. Never walk barefoot through floodwater.

“The immediate concern is that somebody’s going to be walking and step on something, or not step on something — for instance if there’s a manhole cover missing. So people are going to be badly injured walking through the floodwaters,” Houston EMS medical director Dr. David Persse told “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell.

Infectious diseases

Floodwater may contain a number of pathogens, and people crowded into shelters are especially vulnerable to outbreaks of common illnesses.

“When we have lots of people congregated into small spaces like this, you worry about viral illness outbreaks that would cause gastrointestinal problems,” Persse said. “You know we’ve always heard about cruise ships where everybody got sick — it’s the same virus that we worry about here … the norovirus.”

Exposure to floodwater itself also carries risks.

“Floodwater harbors bacteria, different viruses, and fungi, all of which can make people sick,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told CBS News.

One of the biggest concerns with floodwater…

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