Flooding and its health effects on water sources

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The increased likelihood of future flooding, together with the recent events experienced in New Orleans, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, and the Russian Federation, raises the issue of how floods affect human health. Besides the "tangible" effects of flooding, such as damage to property and infrastructure, there is a growing awareness of the significance of the "intangible" effects, both physical and psychological, that have traditionally been underestimated in assessing the consequences of flooding.

In terms of occurrence, health effects can be categorized as those happening during or immediately after the flooding; those developing in the days or early weeks following the flooding; and longer-term effects, which may appear after and/or last for months or years. All these categories can be divided into direct and indirect health effects.

So what are the direct effects? Streamflow velocity; topographical features; absence of warning; the rapid speed of flood onset; deep floodwaters; landslides; risky behavior; fast-flowing waters carrying boulders and fallen trees; drowning; injuries; contact with water respiratory diseases; shock; hypothermia; cardiac arrest; contact with polluted water wound infections; dermatitis; conjunctivitis; gastrointestinal illnesses; ear, nose and throat infections; possible serious waterborne diseases; increase in physical and emotional stress; increased susceptibility to psychosocial disturbances and cardiovascular incidents.

The Indirect effects also have overbearing health implications: Damage to water supply systems; damage to sewerage and sewage disposal systems; insufficient supply of drinking-water; insufficient supply of water for washing; possible waterborne infections (enter pathogenic E.coli, Shigella, hepatitis A, leptospirosis, giardiasis, campylobacteriosis); dermatitis; conjunctivitis; disruption of transport systems food shortages; disruption of emergency response; disruption of underground piping; dislodgment of storage tanks; overflow of toxic waste sites; release of chemicals; disruption of petrol storage tanks, possibly leading to fire; Potential acute or chronic effects of chemical pollution; Standing water; heavy rainfall; expanded range of vector habitats; vector-borne diseases; rodent migration; possible rodent-borne diseases disruption of social networks; loss of property; Clean-up activities following flooding Electrocution; injuries; lacerations; puncture wounds Destruction of primary food products Food shortages; damage to health services; disruption of "normal" health service activities; decrease in "normal" health care services; insufficient access to medical care.

Source: MENNE, B. ET AL.

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