DOH: Floodwaters caused by Lane could carry harmful bacteria

8/24 4 p.m.: Hurricane Lane downgraded to Category 1 storm

HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Heavy rains can mean floods.

And that's got state health officials concerns.

They're urging residents to avoid contact with floodwaters as much as possible to avoid harmful contaminants.

"Health risks include leptospirosis, a bacteria shared by animals, that sits in the mud and then gets washed into the streams and people are exposed," said Bruce Anderson, director of the state Department of Health.

"If you have an open cut or wound, it's particularly risky to be in flood waters," Anderson said.

Officials say when Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai back in 1992, there were initial problems associated with the drinking water as cesspools overflowed, affecting crucial water sources.

Residents also may have a higher likelihood of being exposed to chemicals or infectious diseases through contaminated floodwater.

Another potential health risk as the storm nears: Getting sick from close contact to people in emergency shelters.

People have a heightened chance of contracting a disease when they relocate during natural disasters and are forced into confined and crowded places.

Officials say it is important for residents to include necessary medicine, hygiene tools and other treatments in their emergency kits as hurricanes can easily disrupt therapy routines and access to medicine.

Anderson added that in case of an outage, facilities having to do with public health and safety will be the first to receive aid.

The state Health Department's crisis hotline is also ready to field any calls for residents in emotional distress.

The crisis hotline number is 808-832-3100.

"Mental health issues are obviously a problem, and depending on how this situation goes, it could get worse," Anderson said. "We need to make sure we're doing what we can to ensure they have that support."

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.