March 18, 2019

As Spring rains arrive, so do the risks associated with flood water, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services warns

Precautions should be taken by all who work near floodwater to avoid exposure


Media Contact:
Lisa Cox
Chief, Office of Public Information
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - As many northwest Missouri communities face rivers and creeks at or above flood stage, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) reminds Missourians of the serious health and safety risks posed by floodwater.

\"It is vital that everyone working near floodwaters realizes the risks that exist,\" said Dr. Randall Williams, DHSS Director.\"Just as driving in moving or standing water is dangerous, wading in floodwaters or exposure while recovering from a flood can pose health risks.\"

Children should be warned never to play in or near floodwater. Seemingly stable creek and stream banks may suddenly give away, throwing a person into moving water. Powerful currents can sweep people in, resulting in deadly consequences for them and rescuers. Additionally, floodwater may obscure storm drains or culverts.

In addition to drowning, floodwaters pose many risks:

  • Floodwater can contain raw sewage and pose other risks, including infectious diseases, hazardous chemical exposure, and debris that can cause injuries.
  • Direct contact with floodwater can cause skin rashes, an infection of cuts or wounds or stomach illnesses including vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Downed or broken power lines in floodwater pose an electrocution hazard.
  • Sharp objects and debris, such as glass or metal objects, may be lurking in floodwater.
  • Animals, insects, snakes and other reptiles that have been displaced due to flooding may be submerged or hiding in debris in or near floodwaters.

Clothing exposed to floodwater should be removed as soon as possible. Exposed hands, feet and any other skin should be washed with clean soap and water.

After working in or near floodwaters, monitor any cuts, scrapes or wounds for redness, swelling or drainage. Seek prompt medical attention if any of these symptoms develop.

Anyone involved with flood cleanup should have had a booster dose of tetanus-diphtheria (Td) vaccine within the past 10 years. Contact your local health department or your primary care physician if you need a Td vaccine.

More information regarding flood safety and recovery

About the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: The department seeks to be the leader in protecting health and keeping people safe. More information about DHSS can be found at or find us on Facebook and Twitter @HealthyLivingMo.