VDH Urges Caution In Advance of Severe Weather

RICHMOND, VA — The remnants of Tropical Storm Ian are expected to impact areas of the state beginning Friday, September 30 through the weekend. This storm could create dangerous conditions in creeks, rivers, and low lying areas along the coast. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reminds people to take precautions to be prepared for severe weather and once the sun comes out, be aware of potential health risks before you participate in recreational water activities.

“I encourage everyone, especially those with travel plans, to pay close attention to storm updates, plan appropriately, and take proper precautions as the storm arrives,” said State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH. “Be safe; stay safe.”

Heavy rains can increase the risk of animal waste and the potential release of inadequately treated wastewater from sewage treatment plants. Bacteria, debris, and other pollutants in rainwater runoff end up in rivers, lakes and streams, which can pose risks to human health and safety. Rain events also cause flooding and fast-moving waters, especially in low-lying areas.

The most common illnesses from contaminated water are gastrointestinal illnesses. These illnesses may cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain or fever and are a result from swallowing water contaminated by disease-causing microbiological organisms. Additionally, contact with contaminated water has the potential to cause upper respiratory (ear, nose, throat) and skin infections.

VDH recommends avoiding swimming in fast-moving water as there is a drowning risk. Boaters, kayakers, canoeists, etc. face an elevated risk in high waters and should not try to navigate in fast-moving waters.

VDH recommends the following safety tips for people planning to swim, wade, kayak, canoe or go rafting in Virginia natural waters after heavy rains:

  • Everyone should wear a life vest at all times on the water.
  • 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.

Residents or facilities that provide water to the public including campgrounds, restaurants, or daycares with private wells or septic systems submerged by flood waters should also take extra precautions.

For more information and safety tips regarding private wells and septic systems visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-health/responding-to-an-emergency-affecting-your-private-well/.

To contact your local health department, visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/local-health-districts/ or call 877-ASK-VDH3 (1-877-275-8343).

To contact your local health department, visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/local-health-districts/.

For more information regarding recreation water safety tips, including the Virginia Department of Health’s “Safely Enjoy Virginia’s Natural Waters” brochure, visit: www.SwimHealthyVA.com.