Palm Beach County health experts warn of flood water dangers

LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. -- Five days after Tropical Storm Isaac dumped an overwhelming amount of rain on parts of Palm Beach County, problems associated with flooding continue to grow. There are new warnings from county health officials about the dangers from stagnant water still surrounding many homes.

Authorities are most concerned about mosquitoes, mold and more problems associated with standing water. "You have to assume that the water is contaminated," said Dr. Alina Alonso, Director of the Palm Beach County Health Department.

Alonso says the potential for illness from standing water is very real. "It's not worse as time goes by," she said. "It's very dangerous from the first day."

It has been nearly a week of frustration for many residents, with their properties turned into islands lined with raw sewage, dead fish and countless mosquito eggs ready to hatch. Experts say mosquitoes and bacteria can multiply in flood waters much faster than the water levels are going down.

"With this much water, you're going to have a lot of mosquitoes. Let's face it," said Ed Bradford of Palm Beach County Mosquito Control. The county was scheduled to begin aerial mosquito spraying at dusk on Friday. Overnight, they hoped to cover 270,000 acres of land in the western communities. Still, mosquitoes are expected to be a big problem. "We have to let them hatch off and we'll try to time our air sprays as to reduce their numbers," said Bradford.

In the meantime, experts say it will be up waterlogged residents to protect themselves. "It's a lot easier to prevent something instead of trying to treat something if you get sick," said Dr. Alonso. "Nature will take care of it, eventually," she said. Hand washing, body washing with soap and clean water would be the recommendation one were to come in contact with any of that water.

Residents with questions or concerns can still call the Palm Beach County Emergency Operations Center Hotline at 1-561-712-6400.

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