Press Release

May 3, 2011


Preventing Injury and Illness During Flooding

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold is urging residents in and around flooded areas to take precautions to help prevent disease and stay safe.

“It is important people in flood-affected areas avoid the water as much as possible in order to protect themselves from disease that can be carried by flood waters,” said Dr. Arnold. “The State is working to assist people during this flood emergency and encourages residents to take precautions.”

Flood waters and sewer overflows can contain bacteria, fecal material, viruses and other organisms that may cause disease. The following information can help protect communities from illness and injury:

  • Avoid skin contact with sewer water, especially cuts and sores. Keep them clean and covered.
  • Do not allow children to play in areas contaminated by sewage backup.
  • Do not eat or drink anything exposed to sewer water.
  • Keep contaminated objects, water and hands away from mucous membranes (mouth, eyes and nose).
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after bathroom use, before eating and immediately following contact with sewer water or contaminated objects or surfaces.


Exposure to flood waters alone does not increase the risk of tetanus. The need for tetanus vaccination after exposure to flood water depends on the presence of a wound, the condition of the wound and the likelihood the injured person is susceptible to tetanus. The reasons for getting a tetanus shot during a flood are the same reasons for getting a vaccine at any other time.

People who suffer a wound and are exposed to flood waters should get a tetanus shot if it has been more than five years since their last tetanus booster shot. People who have not had a preliminary series of tetanus vaccines (a minimum of three doses) need to be vaccinated and given tetanus immune globulin as soon as possible. Adults need a tetanus booster shot every 10 years. Talk with your health care professional about the need for a tetanus shot.

Food and Water Safety

Use only bottled or disinfected water for drinking, cooking, brushing your teeth and bathing until you are sure the water supply is safe. Communities with water quality issues and residents with private wells that my be submerged in flood waters should boil their water. The current recommendation is to bring water to a rolling boil for five minutes.

Discard food exposed to contaminated waters. Food stored in refrigerators or freezers that have taken-in water should be thrown out. If no water entered these appliances, but power was lost long enough for foods to thaw, discard all partially thawed foods unless prepared immediately.

Discard milk, cheeses and other foods prone to spoilage. Completely thawed meats and vegetables should be discarded without question. Discard all bulging or leaking canned food and any food stored in jars. Intact cans without dents can be cleaned with a bleach solution, before use.

For more information log onto

After the Flood - PDF

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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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