Baton Rouge – The Department of Health would like to remind citizens that although the outbreak of infectious diseases may be a frightening prospect, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, widespread outbreaks of infectious disease after hurricanes are not common in the United States. Outbreaks of rare and deadly diseases do not suddenly occur after hurricanes and floods in areas where such diseases do not naturally occur.
Because cholera and typhoid are not commonly found in the U.S. Gulf States area, it is very unlikely that they would occur after Hurricane Katrina.
LDH has in place a tracking system for unusual diseases or outbreaks in general populations or hospitals. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, this tracking system has been expanded to include general shelters, special needs shelters, field hospitals and emergency rooms.
LDH officials say there is no need for any special immunizations in the wake of a hurricane or other severe storm; however, residents who cut or puncture themselves while cleaning up after the storm should get a tetanus shot if they have not received one in the past five years.
Adults should routinely have a tetanus shot every 10 years, but a booster shot is necessary if they have a dirty wound and their last shot was more than five years ago.
Residents should not be concerned about getting special immunizations for other diseases following a hurricane.
The incidence of short-term gastrointestinal illnesses and respiratory infections sometimes occurs following a hurricane or flood. This is because people often shelter in close quarters and share food more than usual. This can put them at a higher risk for spreading illnesses person-to-person.
To avoid spreading these illnesses, be sure to practice good hygiene habits when sharing with others. It is important to wash your hands in hot, soapy water and take extra care when around people who have been recently affected with severe diarrhea or vomiting, as this could be a sign of a contagious stomach illness.
For more information on the recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina, visit www.dhhemergencynews.com.
For hurricane-related health and safety tips from the CDC, visit http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/index.asp.