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DHS news release


December 4, 2007

Contact: Bonnie Widerburg, 971-673-1282


en español


Public health officials remind Oregonians about water and food safety precautions after recent storms

The Oregon Department of Human Services Public Health Division today issued a reminder to Oregonians who experienced high-water conditions or lost power during the recent storms to take precautions to prevent water-borne infections and ensure the safety of food. The following actions can help prevent health problems from occurring:

Avoid contact with flood waters.

Flood waters may contain fecal material from overflowing sewage systems, agricultural and industrial byproducts, or other groundwater contaminants. Although skin contact with flood water does not, by itself, pose a serious health risk, it is important to clean any open cuts or sores that have been exposed to flood water to reduce the chance of infection. If a wound develops redness, swelling or drainage, seek immediate medical attention.

Always wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected after participating in flood cleanup activities or handling articles contaminated with flood water.

In addition, parents can help children avoid waterborne illnesses by not allowing children to play in flood water areas or to play with any toys that have been contaminated with flood water unless those toys have been disinfected. Toys can be disinfected by using a solution of one cup of bleach in five gallons of water.

There also can be a risk of disease from eating or drinking anything contaminated with flood water, or from using utensils that have come into contact with flood water. Wooden cutting boards, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers cannot be properly sanitized if they have come into contact with contaminated flood waters. These items should be discarded.

Sanitize food-contact surfaces.

Follow this four-step process to sanitize food-contact surfaces:

  1. Wash with soap and warm, clean water.
  2. Rinse with clean water.
  3. Sanitize by immersing for one minute in a solution of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach (5.25 percent, unscented) per gallon of clean water.
  4. Allow to air dry.

Store food safely.

  • While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
  • Add block ice or dry ice to your refrigerator if the electricity is expected to be off longer than four hours.

Identify and throw away food that may not be safe to eat.

  • Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood water.
  • Throw away food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
  • Throw away perishable foods (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit (F) for two hours or more.
  • Throw away canned foods that are bulging, opened or damaged.
  • Discard any food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soda pop bottles), twist caps, flip tops, snap-open, and home canned foods that have come into contact with flood water. These types of containers cannot be disinfected.
  • Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula.

For more information, check these Web sites.


Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency