Mold cleanup

John Anderson sprays a bleach solution to kill mold on the inside of the walls at his mother’s house on Clara Barton Lane in Galveston in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. “It’s behind the Sheet Rock,” Anderson said about the mold. “You gotta clean inside the walls.”

Photo by Kevin M. Cox

Mold, contaminated soil, infections and respiratory ills may lie in wait after a hurricane, physicians say. But if you find yourself needing to clean up and muck out after a hurricane, just slap the mosquitoes aside, slide on some gloves, a mask and with proper precautions, keep on working, they advise.

Here’s a roundup of advice gathered in 2009 from medical experts eyeing the aftermath of Hurricane Ike:

Contaminated soil

Organisms living in soil contaminated by bacteria and human waste can be transmitted hand to hand or hand to mouth and can lead to Hepatitis A, tetanus or other infections.

Wear gloves; avoid touching your mouth and eyes; wash hands or use hand sanitizers frequently; wear rubber boots and get a tetanus shot.

Molds and fungus

They’ll range in color from dirty white to greenish to black.

Waterlogged, damaged items should be discarded. But clothing or upholstery that isn’t waterlogged might be reclaimed with cleaning or dry cleaning.

Hard surfaces can be wiped down with a bleach or alcohol solution.

Sentimental photographs, jewelry and other items can be cleaned and dried.

Waterlogged carpet and Sheetrock should be discarded. Mold will grow in the wall cavities, so they must be exposed.

Wear a mask that will filter out fungus for that kind of work. Stay out of poorly ventilated areas where cleaning produces strong fumes. Get enough sleep and rest.

A persistent cough, particularly when exerting oneself or when it causes you to wake in the middle of the night, should prompt a call to the doctor.

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