(LEBANON, Va.) – The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Cumberland Plateau and Lenowisco Health Districts remind residents and visitors to Virginia to take precautions to protect their health during and after heavy rains. Bacteria, debris, and other pollutants are picked up by rainwater as it travels over the land and ends up in rivers, lakes and streams. Recent heavy rains can increase the risk of exposure to inadequately treated wastewater released from sewage treatment plants and animal waste. This mix of rain and pollution can pose risks to human health and safety.
Rain events also cause flooding and fast-moving waters, especially in low-lying areas. People should take precautions to avoid flooded areas and swollen waterways, and once the sun comes out, be aware of potential health risks and hazards before you participate in recreational water activities, like swimming and boating. Swallowing contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illnesses, with vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain or fever. Contact with contaminated water also can cause infections of the ears, nose, throat and skin.
VDH recommends these safety tips for those who enjoy swimming, wading, kayaking, canoeing or rafting in Virginia’s rivers and natural waters:
•Avoid wading, swimming and boating in natural waters following heavy rains. These waters typically contain more debris and germs, and can increase your risk of injury and illness.
•Avoid getting water in your mouth. Never swallow water from an untreated water source.
•Don’t swim if you have broken skin. Bacteria, viruses and other organisms can infect wounds and cause more serious illness.
•Shower with soap and water after recreating in natural waters.
•Don’t swim when you are ill.
•Avoid swimming if dead fish are present.
•Use extreme caution and avoid unnecessary risks if you encounter covered roads or fast-moving waters. The water may be deeper and moving faster than you think. Remember: “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.”
Residents or facilities that provide water to the public including campgrounds, restaurants, summer camps, or daycares with private wells or septic systems submerged by flood waters should also take extra precautions.
For more information and safety tips regarding private wells and septic systems visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-health/responding-to-an-emergency-affecting-your-private-well/.
To find the location of local sewer treatment facilities, contact your local public works department.
To contact your local health department, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/local-health-districts. For more information on recreational water safety, see “Safely Enjoy Virginia’s Natural Waters” at www.SwimHealthyVA.com.
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