Medical Alert – The Hidden Danger Sandy Left Behind
The flooding of lower Manhattan and the subways, has posed a significant health risk that may appear throughout the Northeast flood zone weeks after the water recedes. So far, preliminary tests performed on water samples taken from lower Manhattan show the evidence of Coliform Bacteria, an indicator of contamination with fecal pathogens including bacteria such as E-Coli, viruses, protozoa and many multicellular parasites.
New York City has a combined sewer system that collects both storm water runoff and waste into a single pipe system. When it rains or snows, the sewage facilities cannot process all this combined sewage and the untreated portion is dumped into the waterways called (CSO) which stands for Combined Sewage Outfall. The location of these points run up and down the East and Hudson rivers and drain into the NYC harbor, the very water that flooded the streets of lower Manhattan, parts of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and The Bronx.
Doctor Richard E. Besser of ABC News has reported on this and emphasized the presence of gasoline, a toxic substance when it comes in contact with the skin, that he also found in water samples. Despite his report, not enough attention is being given to this danger as it could very well lead to a major epidemic of infections in the coming weeks, especially for those people who have a break in the skin, minor burns or cuts in areas of the body that came in contact with the water.
If anyone has had direct skin contact, they should not wait for any symptoms such as a rash, fever of unknown origin or other side effects. They should discuss it with their physician or public health official who will evaluate whether they need additional immunizations or antibiotic treatment depending on what lab tests identify. However, no one should be using antibiotics unless they are under the direct care of a qualified physician as this could result in resistant strain bacteria. Nor should anyone eat any food, including those in cans that have come in contact with the flood water.
As one would expect, young children, older people, and those with diabetes or any immune deficiency are particularly vulnerable. Finally everyone in the flood zone should be alert to tests being done on all the sources of drinking water, before turning on the faucet since boiling water to purify it may not be enough.