Dealing With Unsanitary Floodwaters

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Santa Clara County Health Officer Statement Regarding Potential Risks in Coming

in Contact With Floodwaters


SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. After the flooding incidents throughout the South Bay, Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Health Officer, provides the following information for people living in areas that are flooding. Specifically, contact with floodwaters can pose risks to health and safety. 

Floodwaters may contain materials that are hazardous to health and it is best to avoid any contact with the water. Raw sewage, animal wastes, household chemical compounds, bacteria and other potential contaminants may be in the water, so people should take every precaution to stay away from the water to avoid illness or injury.

The following guidelines have been provided by the Public Health and Environmental Health Departments for anyone who has been in contact with floodwaters: 

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water. If any part of your body has come in contact with floodwaters, wash with soap and clean water.  If you have children who have come in contact with floodwater, make sure they wash too.
  • If you have open cuts or sores, protect them.  Keep them as clean as possible by washing with soap and applying an antibiotic ointment to discourage infection.  If a wound develops redness, swelling or drainage, contact your health provider and get immediate medical attention.
  • void eating any food that may have come in contact with floodwater.  If you suspect food came in contact with the water, throw it away. Undamaged, commercially canned foods can be saved if you remove the labels, thoroughly wash the cans and disinfect them with a solution consisting of one tablespoon of bleach in one gallon of water.   Food containers with screw caps, snap lids, flip caps, snap caps, twist caps and home-canned foods should be discarded if they have come into contact with floodwater because they cannot be disinfected.
  • Do not let children play with toys which have been in contact with floodwater until the toys have been disinfected.  Disinfect toys using a solution of one cup of bleach in five gallons of water. 

The Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health is providing health and safety guidelines for individuals returning to flooded areas. 

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