Sewage, Debris, Mosquitoes: Flood Waters Increase Health Risk for Harvey Victims

Jessica Glenza | The Guardian | August 30, 2017

Flood waters were still pouring into homes in Houston – bringing with them a further threat to public health

Tropical storm Harvey continues to threaten lives in Houston, where officials are focused on evacuating hospitals and securing life-saving emergency transportation, knowing they face long-term health threats. “Our number one priority now,” said Chris Van Deusen, a clearly frayed spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, is “to make sure hospital patients and those with medical needs are taken care of.”

Flood water – a nasty cocktail of chemicals, heavy metals, sewage, debris and wildlife – was still pouring into people’s homes on Tuesday. Social media overflowed with images of people being rescued via jet ski, canoe and fishing boat. Twelve hospitals in the Houston area were evacuated by Tuesday. Some emergency medical services were coming back online in Corpus Christi and Victoria.

“Aside from just the general public health functions, we also help coordinate medical transportation, assisting and coordinating and evacuating hospitals,” said Van Deusen. “We have been moving ambulances, ambulance buses, and we’re staging some helicopters,” he said. Public health researchers who focus on long-range impacts watched the catastrophe with disbelief. Before the flood, Houston already had problems. Flood waters seemed to only exacerbate potential dangers...