As the hurricane season reaches its peak, and Hurricane Florence brings threats of catastrophic weather events and flooding to the eastern United States, preparation and sustained responses will be essential to prevent and respond to public health and infectious disease impacts that pose risks in a storm’s aftermath. IDSA and HIVMA stand ready to offer help and guidance to our colleagues in the affected areas in the days to come.
With mass evacuations from coastal areas, shelters housing large numbers of people can provide breeding grounds for noroviruses and other infections, making frequent hand-washing an important measure. Suboptimal vaccination rates can exacerbate the potential for infections to spread. Links to health services for people displaced from their homes will need to be provided. For people living with HIV, and other infections requiring ongoing treatment, adequate supplies of medications will be critical to preventing treatment disruptions that can lead to antimicrobial resistance.
While widespread disease outbreaks after flooding remain uncommon in the United States, hand hygiene, clean water, as well as access to medications will remain essential for preventing and limiting the spread of infectious diseases in the wake of a storm. Residences and facilities without electricity and compromised by flooding, provide an atmosphere ripe for consumption of unsafe food and water, and illnesses such as E. coli should be anticipated.