Residents throughout areas of Columbus and Platte County are in a race to ensure their homes are protected, valuables are safe and that their loved ones aren't in vulnerable situations.
Numerous locals have taken it upon themselves over the course of the past 48 hours to insert themselves into harm’s way to extend a helping hand to those in need.
Although saving property and lives is at the forefront of nearly everyone’s minds, local health care professionals want those navigating through floodwaters to be wary of their own health needs, too.
“You have to look at where these flood waters are going,” Dr. Daniel Rosenquist of Columbus Family Practice said Friday afternoon. “If you see where the floodwaters are at, especially west of town, you know that they are going through feedlots, they are going through confinement units, picking up sewage and everything else.
“And these guys (officials) do a very good job, but in this situation, this could be a (once in a) hundred-year flood – if you look at all of the records and water flow. And all of this stuff is coming down, and all of a sudden if you get an open cut or would you are walking around in this stuff and it has a ready path right into your bloodstream to start potentially getting you infected with all of the things that are in there (water).”
Rosenquist, who serves as a medical liaison for Columbus Community Hospital, said that people should refer to information provided on the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) website for information relating to navigating through flood waters.
Exposure to these elements, he said, can cause wound infections, skin rashes, gastrointestinal illness, Tetanus and Leptospirosis.
Tetanus is a real concern. If contracted and not appropriately treated, it can potentially be fatal. People need to be especially wary if they haven’t been vaccinated for this disease during the past seven to 10 years.
“Tetanus, think of lockjaw,” he said, alluding to symptoms by tensing the muscles in his face. “You get Tetanus ... of the muscles (when) they all go into spasm and because of that you may not be able to breathe, you may not be able to function, may not be able to walk. It definitely can be fatal if it’s not treated appropriately with antitoxins and muscle relaxants – it’s a supported process."
The doctors said he and other medical professionals working with the hospital complete disaster training to be ready for situations related to ones like this so they are on the top of their game in regard to providing rapid and effective care.
Those in floodwaters, he said, once out need to examine their bodies for cuts, scratches and any other abnormal skin pigmentation. Because of the heat of the moment and with emotions running high, it may be easy to not realize something is wrong until it suddenly is an issue.
“There may be a little bit of adrenaline flowing when you are wading through water – especially with the currents we are seeing – and you may not realize what you have stepped on or stepped in. We know there are a lot of trees down, and just how many boards out there with nails?”
If a cut or scrape occurs, information from the CDC says that the affected should wash the area with soap and water as soon as possible to minimize infection risk. If soap isn’t available, alcohol-based wipes or sanitizer is the next best option. In addition, clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water should be soaked in hot water with detergent before reuse.
Those who must enter floodwater should – if possible – wear heavy boots, rubber gloves on their hands and cover their eyes with protective gear.
Rosenquist said local doctors are prepared to deal with any infection-related injuries in the best way possible.
“Now, through the medical profession, we all have to heighten our awareness and say, ‘OK, these people are out in the flood waters, this is not a garden variety thing I’m dealing with, this is flood waters.’ That’s when I have to think and broaden my thought process and just think a little bit more about what is out in that area.”
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.