Hurricane Michael’s health risks: 3 things to watch out for

Hurricane Michael officially made landfall Wednesday, barreling into the Florida Panhandle with winds reaching over 155 miles per hour.

Michael — the most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since Hurricane Camille in 1969 — is expected to cause billions of dollars in damage. But Floridians should also be concerned with the variety of health risks powerful storms like this can bring.

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Read on for a look at three health risks that could affect residents after the hurricane.

Contaminated water

Hurricanes put water supplies at risk for contamination, according to the Florida Department of Health. Heavy flooding typically increases this risk, as do storm surges.

Water treatment plants, in particular, may cease to operate either during or after the storm — and flooding may taint water lines with harmful bacteria.

Drinking or wading in flood water can be dangerous, presenting the risk of parasitic or bacterial infections from E. coli, salmonella, norovirus, and rotavirus, Fox News’ Dr. Manny Alvarez said after Hurricane Irma.

“In addition, some may get infected with Cryptosporidium, a parasite that can live in water for up to 10 days,” he warned at the time.

Mold

Mold is also a dangerous health hazard after a hurricane.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people should assume they have mold if their house floods and is unable to be completely dried within 24 to 48 hours.

Mold can cause eye and skin irritations, allergic reactions and asthma attacks. It can be especially dangerous to those who already have weakened immune systems, the CDC said. If you enter a potentially moldy home or site after a hurricane, be sure to wear protective gloves and goggles, and use a mask or N95 respirator.

‘Trench foot’

Feet drenched in unsanitary water for long periods of time are susceptible to a condition called “trench foot,” the CDC warns.

Symptoms of this condition include pain, swelling, numbness, tingling sensation, itching, blotchy skin, coldness or a heavy feeling in the foot, according to the CDC, which noted pain, redness, and blisters are also common.

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To prevent trench foot, it’s important to clean and air-dry feet after wearing wet socks and shoes — though Healthline reported it’s important to air dry feet “even if you don’t think your feet got wet.”

Wet socks and shoes should also be exchanged for dry ones as soon as possible, the CDC recommends.

Fox News’ Kaitlyn Schallhorn and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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