Sunday, September 20, 2020
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Post-Katrina lessons for student hurricane victims

Among the lessons we’re learning as Houston recovers from Hurricane Harvey is that floodwaters can become contaminated; the New York Times paid for testing of the water, and it’s not good: water in at least two neighborhoods is contaminated with bacteria and toxins that can make people sick.

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People are being strongly advised not to allow floodwaters to get past their skin, either by touching them with a cut or scab or by any other means. This could cause a very serious infection that can become difficult to treat and may result in serious injury or death.

“I’d be wearing a mask with a filter,” the Times quoted Winifred Hamilton, director of the Environmental Health Service at Baylor College of Medicine, who was also concerned about air contaminated with mold, as saying, “and goggles and gloves, with rubber boots. I would change my clothes immediately after leaving the house, and put them in the wash with nothing else.”

The testing reported in the Times said that Escherichia coli, a bacteria commonly found in human waste and therefore a measure of fecal contamination, was found in the floodwaters at levels between four and 135 times those considered safe at various points around Houston. E. coli has especially been found at extremely high levels inside people’s homes.

“There’s pretty clearly sewage contamination, and it’s more concentrated inside the home than outside the home,” the paper quoted Lauren Stadler, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University who participated in the Times’s research, as saying after sampling the water in the living room of one family who resides in the Clayton Homes public housing project along the Buffalo Bayou.

“We saw so much resilience in the children,” NPR quoted Joy Osofsky, a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Louisiana State University, as saying about children after a natural disaster. “And that’s something that’s extremely important to emphasize, that most children will be resilient. And there were factors that contributed to that. A supportive person is very, very important. It can be a parent. It can be a teacher.

“The other thing that we saw with adolescents was their participation in the recovery,” she continued. “Many of them helped rebuild. They planted trees in the wetlands. And the remarkable resilience that we saw in the children was very noteworthy. And we’ll see that in Texas as well.”

And speaking of the resilience of children, here’s a video posted by two vloggers from Florida who were ordered to evacuate Saturday. They went to New Orleans.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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