The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has issued a health advisory for all portions of the state that may experience high stream flows or flooding.
In addition to the physical dangers associated with entering swift moving waters, there is also a potential for high levels of pathogens to exist in the water, the KDHE stated. Pathogens can cause illness in humans and animals.
Waters can carry pathogens from surface runoff as well as from partially treated sewage. At flood levels, wastewater treatment systems in low lying areas are prone to flooding. Once flooded, wastewater systems are compromised and pathogens can escape to the surrounding floodwaters and carried downstream.
The potential for pathogens to cause illness is often measured by an indicator bacterium called E. coli. While all rivers contain bacteria, some bacteria are naturally occurring whereas others can cause illness or can indicate the presence of other illness causing pathogens such as viruses and protozoa. These illnesses can cause a variety of symptoms including skin, ear, respiratory, eye, wound infections and diarrhea.
KDHE anticipates elevated levels of pathogens in state surface waters as a result of excessive runoff and flooding in Kansas and upstream of Kansas, the spokesman said. Kansans are advised to avoid contact with waters experiencing high flows and flooding.
Pets and livestock should also be restricted from contact with flood water. These precautions should be observed until flooding is no longer present.
For more information regarding flood safety and clean up, visit the KDHE’s disaster recovery page: http://www.kdheks.gov/disaster_recovery.htm.