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VDH: Avoid flooded areas, be aware of health risks following heavy rains

The James River in Richmond
Posted at 2:21 PM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 17:19:23-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Department of Health is urging residents to take precautions following multiple days of heavy rains in the Commonwealth.

This includes avoiding flooded areas and being aware of potential health risks before participating in recreational water activities.

"Heavy rains can increase the risk of animal waste and the potential release of inadequately treated wastewater from wastewater treatment plants," health officials said in a release. "Bacteria, debris, and other pollutants in rainwater runoff end up in rivers, lakes and streams, which can pose risks to human health and safety."

Health officials say swallowing contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illnesses, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain or fever.

Additionally, officials say contact with contaminated water has the potential to cause upper respiratory (ear, nose, throat) and skin infections.

VDH is recommending the following safety tips for people planning to swim, wade, kayak, canoe or go rafting in natural waters after heavy rain:

⦁ Avoid getting water in your mouth. Never swallow water from an untreated water source.
⦁ Don’t swim if you have broken skin. Bacteria, viruses and other organisms can infect wounds causing more serious illness.
⦁ Shower with soap and water after recreating in natural waters.
⦁ Don’t swim when you are ill.
⦁ Avoid swimming if dead fish are present.
⦁ Use extreme caution and avoid unnecessary risks if you encounter covered roads or fast-moving waters. The water may be deeper and moving faster than you think.