HEALTH warnings have been iossued to people affected by flooding.

DR Jim O’Brien, centre director for Public Health England in Wessex, reminds people affected by flooding to look after their health as well as their property.

He said: “It’s important to be aware that there are health risks from flooding and you do need to take some precautionary measures.

“Thankfully, in this country, the risk from really serious infections linked to floods is quite low. That said, floodwater in homes can still contain plenty of harmful bugs which can cause diarrhoea, fever and tummy pain if you’re not careful – so follow good hygiene and wash your hands frequently with soap.”

“Accidental drowning is probably the most obvious risk, and serious injury can be caused by falling into fast flowing water or from dangers underneath floodwater, like missing manhole covers or hidden object.”

“It can be tempting to use generators, outside heaters or barbecues indoors when there has been a flood and you are trying to get warm and dry out. “However, there is a serious danger from carbon monoxide fumes in using something indoors that is only intended for outdoor use. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal and can happen quite quickly.

“We would always recommend that people have carbon monoxide alarms fitted, but it’s important to be particularly cautious and do not use petrol or diesel generators of other similar fuel-driven equipment indoors following floods or power cuts.”

Public Health England has worked with the Environment Agency to come up with a list of advice when dealing with the floods.

1. If a flood has been forecast:

• Listen to local radio or check the Environment Agency’s website for updates

• Turn off your gas, electricity and water

• Pack a flood kit, in case you need to leave your home. This should include phone numbers, insurance documents, bank cards, money, medicines and medical devices, glasses and contact lenses, clothing toothbrush and personal items and, if you have a baby, nappies, clothing and baby food.

• Be careful not to hurt yourself when preparing your home and moving important things to a higher place.

2. During a flood:

• Avoid walking or driving in or near floodwater and don’t let children play in floodwater;

• Move your family, pets, and flood kit to a high place with means of escape, listen to advice and evacuate when told to do so.

• Avoid contact with floodwater, wash your hands regularly and avoid swallowing water or mud.

3. Following a flood:

• Be careful if you must go into floodwater and be aware of hidden dangers like sharp objects, raised or missing manhole covers and pollution.

• Do not use petrol or diesel generators or other fuel-driven equipment indoors as the exhaust gases contain dangerous carbon monoxide. If using portable indoor heating appliances to dry out buildings, ensure good ventilation.

• Wash your hands with warm, clean water and soap, then rinse and thoroughly dry them. Do this regularly and especially after going to toilet, before preparing or eating food and after being in contact with floodwater, sewage or items that have been in the water.

• Do not eat food that has touched floodwater or fresh food from the fridge or freezer if your electricity has been turned off.

• Wear rubber boots, gloves and masks to clean up and wash clothes worn during cleaning on a separate cycle from your other clothes • Clean work surfaces thoroughly before and after preparing food.

• Clean hard surfaces (eg walls and floors with hot water and ordinary household detergent and allow to dry thoroughly, which will help to destroy any germs left behind.

• Do not mix detergents with chlorine-based bleaches as this may release hazardous fumes • Wash soft items like clothing, bedding or toys on 60º cycle with detergent. Remove any discard anything that has been damaged beyond repair or is mouldy.

• Do not turn on gas or electrics that have been wet until they have been checked by a qualified technician.

• Check with your water company or local council that your water is safe to drink and wash in.

• Dispose of dead rodents and pests in a plastic bag and wear rubber gloves.

• Mould should disappear as your home dries out, but contact a specialist cleaner if it does not.