Broadspire® is urging clients affected by flooding after Hurricane Harvey to deploy vaccination protocols and protect their employees against waterborne diseases and other injuries common to disaster responders.
Healthcare specialists at Broadspire are supporting a number of large employers in Texas and Louisiana and urge them to remind employees of important everyday precautions to help prevent infection and injury.
“The most important vaccine-preventable disease that we need to protect against in this situation is tetanus,” said Dr. Marcos Iglesias, chief medical officer, Broadspire. “If an individual is not up to date with a tetanus vaccination (i.e., received primary series and has had a booster in the past ten years), the individual should receive a Td or Tdap booster vaccine. Other vaccinations, such as Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, cholera, typhoid or rabies are not required or recommended specifically as a precaution when exposed to flood waters like those in Houston.
Nevertheless, if an individual is at risk for exposure to these infections, he or she should receive standard vaccination protocols. For example, workers with potential exposure to blood or body fluids should receive the Hepatitis B vaccination if they have not been previously vaccinated; workers potentially exposed to rabies should be vaccinated against that disease.
“Principal guidelines can be found in the CDC’s Immunization Recommendations for Disaster Responders,” added Iglesias.
Meanwhile, rescue and restoration efforts will place individuals at risk and Broadspire clients have again been reminded of the key risk management steps.
Some employees may be deployed to Houston and other areas in Texas and Louisiana as responders to the disaster. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has issued guidance for pre-exposure medical screening for Workers Deployed for Hurricane Disaster Work.
Personal protective equipment should be used, depending on the circumstances. When exposed to water after a flood, care should be taken to use gloves, boots and to wash thoroughly with soap and water after exposure.
One of the dangers that has been surfacing in the Houston floods is fire ants, which may float in colonies called rafts.
“Fire ants have painful bites that can require medical care. Do not touch ants!” said Iglesias. “Be careful not to dangle body parts, oars or other objects that may allow the ants to bite you or climb into a boat or other structure. Fire ants may also find dry ground or debris and pose a hazard if an individual contacts them. Insect repellent may be useful for these and other insects, but does not replace avoidance.”
Other potential dangers common to clean up activities after a disaster such as Harvey include electrical hazards, motor vehicle accidents, machinery injuries, heat stress, fire, slips and falls.
“We want all our clients’ employees to stay safe at this incredibly challenging time,” said Danielle Lisenbey, president and CEO of Broadspire. “Broadspire is always here to provide support and advice, but in the meantime, we strongly urge employers to take as many steps as they can to protect their employees.”
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Local medical officials (City of Houston)