Louisiana Floods: When Natural Disaster Strikes

John Booth (L) sits with Angela Latiolais's (2L) family while helping them save belongings after flooding on August 16, 2016 in Gonzales, Louisiana. As many as 30,000 people have been rescued following unprecedented floods in the southern US state of Louisiana, including a 78-year-old woman who spent a night stranded in a tree, police said late Monday. Residents awoke Tuesday to find their homes and businesses still surrounded by muddy water, without clear answers about when the epic flooding that has killed at least seven is expected to recede. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan SmialowskiBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images NYTCREDIT: Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse -- Getty Images

Photo Credit: Brendan Smialowski/                           Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In the days since thunderstorms and heavy rains inundated parishes throughout southern Louisiana, the magnitude of the resulting flooding has grown more apparent. As of August 17, the death toll had risen to 13, twelve parishes were declared disaster areas, about 20,000 people were displaced, and more than 40,000 homes were damaged. Our thoughts are with Louisianans during this difficult time, and this historic flooding event is an unfortunate reminder that natural disasters can occur without warning and the consequences can be both far-reaching and long-standing.

In addition to the loss of life and property, flood events have public health implications. For example, although there are no current cases of locally-transmitted Zika virus in Louisiana, the conditions created by the flooding place the state’s communities at risk. Zika mosquitos can reproduce in as little water as a bottle cap and breed wherever water accumulates, making flood sites particularly vulnerable to this health threat. Further, the potential for a communicable disease outbreak increases in areas with standing water and wet conditions. Fortunately, when given the right resources and support, local health departments can take measures to prevent weather emergencies from spiraling into public health emergencies. NACCHO is committed to connecting you to those resources.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response’s (ASPR’s) Technical Resources, Assistance Center, and Information Exchange (TRACIE) has a number of resources that may be helpful to jurisdictions currently experiencing flooding and those jurisdictions planning for flooding or flood-related health issues. The technical resources cover a broad range of healthcare emergency preparedness topics, including Topic Collections that provide subject matter expert vetted resources on specific topics.

We encourage local health departments in Louisiana to explore ASPR’s TRACIE resources. As a reminder to all local health departments across the nation, NACCHO has a resource document available to help you assist communities in moving forward following a flooding event.

If you have any questions, please contact the NACCHO Preparedness Team.

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