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Health Watch: Post Hurricane Health Safety

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Safety issues related to Hurricane Irene include contaminated flood water, food spoiling, and generator dangers. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl is here now with more.

We have several health safety reminders. Stay away from flood water. It’s loaded with bacteria. And if you’ve lost electricity don’t take chances with food that may have spoiled. If in doubt throw it out.

Perishable items like dairy, meat, cold-cuts, mayonnaise will go bad in two hours, if their temperature goes above 40 degrees. A full freezer will only hold food safely for 48 hours, if not opened. And it’s difficult to figure out if food has spoiled.

“The primary problem is bacteria reproducing within that food. It will not be visible, the food will not smell any differently,” said Dr. Michael Chansky, Chief of
Emergency Medicine at Cooper University Hospital. He says food poisoning can cause stomach flu-like symptoms. That’s also a danger if flood waters come into contact with food or cooking utensils.

“Flood water becomes increasingly dirty with time meaning the fecal bacteria, bacteria from the ground multiply pretty quickly,” said Dr. Chansky. Which is why it’s important to avoid coming into contact with flood water

Another danger – generators used for temporary power emit carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that can be deadly.

“Symptoms can be very rapid, from headache, nausea, vomiting, to the passing out and death,” said Dr. Chansky.

Carbon monoxide is most dangerous in a non-ventilated room.

Related Links:

Power Outage Health Safety: http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/poweroutage/needtoknow.asp?source=govdelivery and http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/frozen_food.html

When to Save and When to Throw Out Food During Power Outage: http://flathead.mt.gov/health/documents/foodflood.pdf

Reported by Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3

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