Researchers warn of dangerous bacteria from flood waters

Published: Sep. 10, 2019 at 9:39 PM EDT
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Flood waters and storm surge brought on by hurricanes can wreak havoc on buildings, and homes, but it can also bring an unseen threat, dangerous bacteria.

Dr. Rachel Noble, Marine Sciences Professor, says, "When we have both storm surge, which is water coming from the ocean, and flooding from precipitation, we have a connection of systems that are usually separate."

The flood waters may have receded in most areas after Hurricane Dorian came through the east last week but experts say the danger from those waters isn't over for everyone.

Noble says, "I think a lot of people are doing better about understanding how septic systems work, sewage systems, about the drinking water and the need for bottled water but I do think, the wound infection and protecting people from becoming exposed to flood waters is one of the things we're concerned about most because those wound infections can be very serious."

Noble says one of the positive things that happened with Hurricane Dorian was the direction the wind was pushing the storm surge and the type of water that flooded areas. "The water that was actually causing the flooding has been salty water and the pathogens that we think about that are causing illness they generally don't like ocean water."

Dr. Noble says that anyone with septic systems and water wells should seriously consider having them cleaned before using them again if flood waters inundated their property. She also encourages people working in areas where flooding once was to exercise good hygiene to keep from getting ill from any bacteria still left behind.