After the Hurricane: Harvey Floodwaters are Loaded with Pathogens

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As we reported last week, “Infectious diseases could sweep across Texas as Harvey floods Houston … turning entire neighborhoods into contaminated and potentially toxic rivers … [and] the city into a sprawling, pathogen-infested swamp.”

Now the details are starting to come in and the news isn’t good. CNN is reporting that “unfortunately the numbers are stunningly high … especially bacteria, especially fecal bacteria.” For example, the number of viable E. coli cells in public water should be zero, yet CNN found as many as 8,600 such cells (colony forming units) in their small-sized samples – and they’ll continue to multiply, exponentially.

And because the pathogen count in general is so high there’s “the potential for sewer plant malfunction or sewer plant continuing to discharge untreated or partially treated waste.”

What you should therefore do: “take a bath or shower … as soon as possible after coming out of that water … [and] get rid of the clothes you had on because just washing them will not destroy the harmful bacteria.”

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