Speed Reads

public health emergency

Officials warn of health hazards caused by Harvey flooding

As rain from Tropical Storm Harvey continues to pummel Texas, causing catastrophic flooding, officials are warning residents of some other health threats they could soon be facing.

Dr. Robert Glatter from New York City's Lenox Hill Hospital told CBS News on Monday about the many dangers that could be lurking in floodwater. With rain expected to fall for the next several days, people are at risk of drowning, and even if the water is shallow, if it's moving fast enough, someone could be swept away. Since you can't see what's at the bottom of the floodwater, never walk in it barefoot; there could be sharp objects, like glass shards, underneath. Then, there's the "bacteria, different viruses, and fungi, all of which can make people sick," Glatter said. Hepatitis A, cholera, typhoid fever, and the bacterial infection Leptospirosis are just some of the possibilities.

To stay safe, any food that touches floodwater, minus canned items, should be thrown away, even if it was in plastic, because there could be tiny tears and "there's no way to know if it's been compromised," Glatter said. When cleaning a house that was flooded, wear rubber gloves, high boots, and waterproof clothing, he added, and don't try to save fabric-covered furniture or carpet. "Bacteria can leach onto fabrics and lead to airborne infections," Glatter said. Outdoors, get rid of any standing water, in order to take away breeding grounds for mosquitos that can carry diseases like Zika.

There's also the mental-health aspect — Glatter said it's common for people to experience post-traumatic stress disorder, and it's important to talk to a counselor when feeling overwhelmed. "Families might be separated, homes are lost, finances are a big issue," he said. "Many people have a breakdown where they can't focus or handle all of the stress and it puts them at an increased risk of suicidal thoughts." Read all of Glatter's valuable advice at CBS News.