Health Department Urges Residents to Take Precautions After the Storm

The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) continues to monitor the health impacts of recent severe winter weather.

Significant power outages, home repairs, and flooding can create dangerous and potentially life-threatening situations.

MSDH urges residents should take the following precautions:

Food and Water Safety

If your power is out, there are several food and water safety tips to follow to ensure what you eat and drink is safe for consumption:

  • If power is out for less than two hours, food in your refrigerator and freezer will be safe to eat. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep food cold longer.
  • After two hours, a freezer that is half full will hold food safely for up to 24 hours. A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours.
  • After two hours, pack milk, other dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, gravy, and spoilable leftovers into a cooler surrounded by ice. Inexpensive Styrofoam coolers are fine for this purpose.
  • Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or treated water. Watch for specific boil water alerts in your area.
  • Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula. If possible, use baby formula that does not need to have water added.
  • Boiling water, when practical, is the preferred way to kill harmful bacteria and parasites. Bringing water to a rolling boil for 1 minute will kill most organisms.

Carbon Monoxide

MSDH recommends the following precautions to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.  Do not burn charcoal or gas grills inside a house, garage, vehicle, tent or fireplace. Do not use gas-powered generators or pressure washers in enclosed spaces including indoors or in the garage. If you suspect you are experiencing any symptoms of CO poisoning, open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and go outside. In cases of severe CO poisoning, call 911 emergency services or the Mississippi Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Personal Protection

When cleaning up storm-damaged areas, be sure to wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes to prevent cuts and scratches from debris. Do not let children play in floodwater, and discard any items that come into contact with floodwater.

Any food (including food in plastic or glass), medicines, cosmetics or bottled water that has come in contact with floodwater should be discarded. If in doubt, throw it out.  Intact cans may be thoroughly disinfected with one-quarter cup of bleach to one gallon of water, and then used.

Around Your Home

When cleaning up debris around your home, be sure ladders are secure before climbing on them to clean the roof and gutters. If you plan to use a chainsaw to clear debris, be sure to operate the machine according to the instructions. If injury occurs, call 9-1-1 or seek immediate medical help.

Flooding can cause mold to grow inside your home, which can cause allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections, and other respiratory problems. MSDH does not handle mold removal or abatement. You will need to call a private contractor for further assistance.

Tetanus Information:

Tetanus vaccination is recommended if it’s been 10 years or more since your last tetanus vaccination (Tdap is the recommended vaccine). In the event of a puncture wound or wound contaminated with floodwater, individuals should consult a healthcare provider. Tetanus vaccinations are available at all county health departments.

Disinfecting Private Water Wells

Homeowners impacted by flooding who do not receive their water supply from a public water system regulated by the MSDH should have their private well inspected, disinfected and sampled in order to protect their health. For step-by-step instructions on disinfecting your private water well, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com.

For more information, visit the MSDH website:  www.HealthyMS.com or sign-up for Twitter and Facebook: www.HealthyMS.com/connect

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