What to know about floodwater safety as torrential rain slams Houston area

PHOTO: A driver takes a cellphone photo of a flooded car on the Interstate 10 feeder road Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Southeast Texas.PlayGuiseppe Barranco/AP Images
WATCH Health risks for flooding survivors

The catastrophic flooding hitting the Houston area is not only damaging homes and businesses, but also posing serious health hazards to residents.

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ABC News' chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, who was on the ground in Houston after Hurricane Harvey in 2017, said the floodwater dangers she witnessed there included drowning, electrocutions from downed power lines and infection.

At least two deaths were reported from Thursday's flooding: one man who drowned after driving into floodwaters and a second man who was electrocuted and drowned while trying to move his horse, according to authorities.

Muddy, opaque floodwaters can hide large or sharp objects dislodged during a storm that can lead to injury, "anything from a fracture to a major laceration," Ashton warned last year.

Floodwater may also contain snakes or other wildlife, human waste from overwhelmed sewage lines or chemicals leached or spilled from flooded sites.

Stagnant water is a paradise for bacteria, and any open wounds give bacteria a way in to the body. That can lead to anything from a simple soft-tissue infection to a much more severe infection. People with a weak immune system are most vulnerable.

PHOTO: In this photo provided by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, a family is rescued via fan boat by a member of the department from the flood waters of Tropical Depression Imelda near Beaumont, Texas, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. Texas Parks & Wildlife Department via AP
In this photo provided by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, a family is rescued via fan boat by a member of the department from the flood waters of Tropical Depression Imelda near Beaumont, Texas, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019.

Here are a few commonsense strategies to help avoid unnecessary risk from floodwaters:

• After flooding, ensure your drinking water is sanitized and wash your hands thoroughly after contact with floodwaters. Disinfect objects that have come into contact with floodwater before offering them to children or toddlers.

• Try to avoid exposure with floodwaters for long periods of time to prevent physical injury. Wear waterproof boots if you have them.

• Keep any open wounds clean, dry and covered if you must go through the water. Seek medical attention for any wounds that are not healing or are festering or making you feel ill.