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CDC activates EOC, warns about health risks from hurricanes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now activated its Emergency Operations Center to respond to the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

By Amy Wallace
CDC activates EOC, warns about health risks from hurricanes
Three men await the arrival of U.S Border Patrol riverine agents in an air boat to pick them up as they are evacuated from a flooded subdivision near Houston, Texas, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on August 30, 2017. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued health warnings and activated its Emergency Operations Center in the aftermath of both Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Photo by Glenn Fawcett/U.S. Customs and Border Protection/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 14 (UPI) -- With Texas and Florida reeling from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning of potential health risks and moving to help minimize them.

The CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center, or EOC, to respond to public health needs in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in the Texas Gulf Coast, and is warning about numerous potential health hazards from vehicle and nonvehicle-related drowning, carbon monoxide poisoning, electrocution, and exposure to mold and other toxins during the clean-up efforts in both Texas and Florida.

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"The aftermath of disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma can be just as dangerous as the storms themselves," Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the CDC, said in a press release. "We encourage affected communities and responders to take advantage of the wealth of practical information CDC offers."

Floodwater contamination will be the first and foremost problem facing residents in Texas, according to Cleveland Clinic infectious disease expert Dr. Frank Esper.

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"Even after the floodwaters have receded, the bacteria will remain a threat to health. You need to make sure you are cleaning anything that could have been contaminated by these floodwaters," Esper said.

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To prevent the spread of mold, residents need to clean up and dry their homes within two days of the storm if possible, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston recommends. Soaked carpet and padding must be removed immediately, and sheet rock and insulation cut out at least three feet above the water line.

The CDC's EOC has deployed pharmacy supplies and six 250-bed medical stations in Houston, Texas, Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, La. The two medical stations in Houston are already operational and the remaining four will be set up as needed.

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As of Sept. 1, 34 CDC staff members have been deployed to Dallas and Washington, D.C., to serve as liaisons with the federal disaster response.

The agency has also deployed members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to provide technical support for critical public health functions.

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