Hepatitis B vaccinations aren’t the worst idea before jumping in to help with flood relief efforts.
Receiving up-to-date tetanus shots, especially for those who have cuts or scrapes and come in contact with flood water, are a must.
“Hepatitis B shots may be a little overkill,” said Dr. John Roach, who works out of Paducah Pediatrics, 1532 Lone Oak Road.
“Those are recommended because it (hepatitis) is a very hardy virus. ... The up-to-date tetanus shots, people need to do that.”
All flood victims and volunteers hoping to recover homes and property from swollen rivers are warned about the water they are facing.
“There is all kinds of stuff in the flood water — debris, waste, snakes and leeches,” said Charlie Ross, public health director of the Purchase District Health Department. “Anyone with open cuts or scrapes, or who gets cut by debris, should definitely get a tetanus shot.”
Roach said tetanus shots protect people from the infection for seven years, but if someone suffers an injury or puncture wound, the latest shots need to be within five years.
The concerns over hepatitis B mostly come from the chance that sewage has leaked into flood waters, Roach said. Such contaminated material can be left behind in mud and sediment even after flood waters recede.
“Theoretically, there is some risk of hepatitis B in those circumstances,” Roach said. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Hepatitis B is irritation and swelling of the liver due to infection with the hepatitis B virus, as the National Center for Biotechnology Information defines it on its website: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. The infection is spread through contact with blood and other bodily fluids from someone infected.
Though vaccination and common sense squelch most every health concern about locals negotiating the flood waters, the severity of what can happen during volunteer efforts is hitting home.
“The disgusting stuff you’re going to subject your body to, I really had no clue,” said Jeff Biggs, pastor of Lone Oak’s New Hope Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Biggs was part of a church volunteer crowd 70 strong one Saturday in May. The group met at the First Baptist Church of Metropolis to coordinate, and train for, relief plans.
Biggs said a Baptist disaster relief organization briefed the crowd about how best to clear mud and sediment from flooded homes, taking lessons from similar work after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
“I don’t mind the stuff I can see and whack with a stick,” Biggs said about the possibility of snakes and leeches. “It’s the stuff I can’t see that I don’t like.”
Roach said anyone interested in volunteering in flood relief efforts should contact their own doctor or their local health department for vaccination information.
Sun staff writer Corianne Egan contributed to this report.
Contact Adam Shull, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.