Doctors Warn Of Health Risks That Come With Storm Damage Clean-Up
BROKEN ARROW, Oklahoma - Oklahomans have a lot of cleaning up to do after about a dozen tornadoes touched down in the past two weeks. But the danger didn't end when the storms did.
Doctors say the smallest cut could have devastating affects to your health, and if left untreated could land you with a nasty infection.
It's been less than a week since an EF2 tornado, packing winds up to 135 miles per hour, ripped through Broken Arrow.
The Russell family is still picking up the pieces.
"There has been an army of the Lord that has come to our home and just volunteers, people that we don't know, people that just walk up and say, 'Can I help you?'" Belinda Russell said.
But doctors we spoke to hope the helpers and the victims are aware of post-tornado health risks.
"You hate for this tragedy to lead into another medical tragedy, because they got injured," said Dr. Lamont Cavanagh, of OU Physicians.
Back in 2011, at least three people died of a fungal infection after the Joplin tornado. Doctors say the winds from a tornado stirred up a fungus called zygomycosis, which was either inhaled or entered through a puncture wound in the skin.
"If you get one of those, we need to wash it with soap and water as soon as we can, or do some type of antiseptic or wipe or towelette. [That] will really help to decrease some of the bacteria that can be in there. If they start seeing a lot of redness around that, if it gets very painful, they need to come see their doctor," Cavanagh said.
The most common illnesses could be skin infections like Staph, which they say can get very bad, if left untreated. Some people who are innocently cleaning up could be exposed to tetanus, which feels like a common cold, but could lead to high fever and chills.
The Russell family is happy for all the help; they just hope no body gets hurt during the process.
Even Russell's husband, who rode the storm out with her, has blood on his left leg Monday.
"That's the least of my concern, at this point," said their neighbor, Adam Schwabauer, who had an injured finger.
This neighbor just wanted to help out, but that bloody finger could lead to an infection.
"I'll certainly get a tetanus shot, I'm sure, but right now: no. Just helping out as much as we can, that's key right now. I'll take a shot later on," Schwabauer said.
Here in our area, the Tulsa Medical Reserve Corps recently returned from Moore, Oklahoma, where they were giving first responders tetanus shots.