As the waters recede...what now?

Here in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids corridor, the waters have been going down for several days, and people are being allowed back into their homes and businesses to begin assessing the damage and cleaning up what remains. However, while the dangers from the initial flooding are receding along with the waters, the clean-up and aftermath bring about a new set of misery.

Flooding is a potential nightmare when it comes to infectious diseases. The water can bring people returning to their flooded residences into contact with sewage, animal carcasses, and other sources of pathogens--and warm waters in June can mean the rapid replication of these organisms. Flooded waters can bring individuals into contact with a variety of diarrheal pathogens, including E. coli, Giardia, and Cryptosporidia. Individuals who have wells should also have their well water tested ( the University Hygienic lab offers testing kits), and individuals are being warned to avoid food from flooded gardens as well.

Eyes and skin are also vulnerable to post-flood pathogens, especially when coupled with another main cause of post-flood morbidity: injuries. These can exacerbate infection (by creating breaks in the skin, for example).

Another problem that will only increase in the coming days: mold. Again, the health department has a short instruction sheet on post-flood mold cleanup, and individuals are already removing carpet, drywall, and other soaked materials in an effort to start drying out.

Finally, another problem in the coming weeks could occur from the residual standing water, providing additional breeding grounds for mosquitoes--and therefore a greater chance of transmission of arboviral diseases (including West Nile and other viral encephalitides).

Update: MSNBC has a bit more detailed article describing the risks I list above as well as a few others.

Image from Iowa City Press-Citizen.

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Hope all is well for you and your family - pretty amazing water there. I imagine the recovery will take quite some time.

I was under the impression that Giardia testing was tricky - due to the little cycsts they form for self-protection. I've known a few sufferers - be careful!

Nice to see your blog starting to pop-up on the "front page" again! You've been missed.

Welcome back - and good luck!

"As the waters recede...what now?"

I don't know what now, Tara. Why don't you tell us?

By the way, you have a very Nice blogsite on the weather!


By heeehheheeheeh… (not verified) on 21 Jun 2008 #permalink

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By Luv&kisses! (not verified) on 21 Jun 2008 #permalink

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By wackamole-this (not verified) on 21 Jun 2008 #permalink

Hope you and yours have come through the flooding okay. Yeah, mosquitoes in all that standing water was one of the first things I thought of.

Food from flooded gardens... that's something that hadn't occurred to me. Interesting.

While I know you've primarily posted on the local public health side of things, how did the lab survive? Even if it was not below water, prolonged power outages can devastate a -80 freezer. Hope all your samples, organisms, and isolates are still safely stored without being buried beneath a film of mold. I would hate to think what would happen if I lost my -80. Actually I know what would happen, and after 12 aspirin the next day I would try to more effectively deal with the problem.

PS: if any posters needs an "e" I'm selling them for $200. "u"'s are $3000 and Im out of my stock of "o".


How much of this will mean wall-to-wall gutting of entire neighborhoods the way they've been doing in Louisiana? I would imagine "if you see a bucket, flip it over" will be a watchword around there for some time to come.


The thing being that at this point, the trolling has escalated to outright harrassment, especially now that Tara is dropping the hammer on the denialists. And now they're claiming that Tara's "when/if" comment means she won't ever blog about HIV again... I do hope they're wrong.

But Tara's opponents do seem to be reveling in the schadenfreude. For that, I'd like to see them all drown in some bacterially infected toxic downtown Cedar Rapids soup.

Lorax, the lab was fine; we didn't end up being affected by any outages. The hospital labs had some touch 'n' go moments and had to reduce their power consumption but I've not heard of any samples being lost.

Brian, that's already starting to happen. We drove through one road that just re-opened (business road, not a residential area) and there's just big piles of furniture, carpet, drywall etc. outside of all of them. In some areas of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City the water was up to the second story of buildings. There's going to be a lot of gutting...

I hope the economy there doesn't take too much of a hit, although we all know it will be hit.

The mold issue seems really concerning, as I've encountered before what it can do to people, especially kids (in my admittedly limited experience). Is there any extra provision made to help out with health treatments for people affected by all this, and whose insurance companies are unhelpful in the first instance? I'm guessing the answer to this is "no", but I would be delighted to be wrong.

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 24 Jun 2008 #permalink

Glad to see you seem to have survived unscathed Tara... : )

I the UK certain places are only just recovering from last years floods - and a damning report about our lack of preparedness - and how; when we allow we allow buildings to be built in flood zones; we allow them to be built in materials that are water-vulnerable because that's the cheapest standard: has just been issued:

Interestingly the first line of this article about it compares it with a 'Flu Pandemic':

By Dean Morrison (not verified) on 26 Jun 2008 #permalink

stop building in flood plains

I hope a Hawkeye will accept the sympathy from a Cyclone. We didn't get much more here in Ames that a few very wet soccer fields near US 30, but I have dear friends living in Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids, and my heart aches for them and all the others.

I lived in Fort Madison on the Mississippi River during the great flood of '93. I always said I never wanted to see anything like that EVER again in my lifetime. Now I have. Can you say "climate change," boys and girls?