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Physicians warn of flood clean up health hazards

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – As communities brace for another round of spring floods, area physicians are looking ahead to the cleanup process, and urging residents to use the proper precautions to protect their well-being.

When trudging through murky flood waters, your risk of contracting tetanus climbs. “It can be deadly so people need to take it very seriously. So even very superficial wounds need proper cleaning with soap and water, not flood water obviously. If you’re concerned about any wound and you’re not sure if you’re up to date on your vaccinations or not, you should be checking with your doctor’s office,” advises Zed Zha, a resident at La Crosse’s Mayo Clinic Health System.

There are also steps Dr. Zha says you can take to prevent injury. “If you are dealing with anything underwater make sure you wear boots that are high enough to prevent your feet from lacerating on things you can’t see, make sure you wear gloves to protect your hands, those kinds of things.”

Dr. Zha says if you have the chance, you should actually check your tetanus shot before you even begin cleaning up. Because you need a booster every ten years, it can be easy to lose track.

Tetanus infections come through puncture wounds, so contact with flood waters alone won’t infect you. There are a few things to look for if you think you may be at risk. Dr. Zha says infections will have visual signs, such as redness, swelling, or pus. Infected patients also may have painful muscle spasms, especially in their head and neck.

Amber Meyer

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