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August 30, 2017

Health Issues Stack Up In Houston As Harvey Evacuees Seek Shelter

  • Government
  • Agency
  • Neuroscience

NPR – As floodwaters continue to rise in parts of Houston, health workers are trying to keep people safe and well, though that challenge is escalating.

"The first and foremost thing that everybody's concerned about is just getting folks out of harm's way with the flooded waters," says Dr. Umair Shah, Executive Director of Harris County Public Health, whose own home came under mandatory evacuation Tuesday morning.

Before the storm hit, Harris County Public Health sent out a number of messages warning residents of to avoid hazards presented by flood waters: downed power lines, sewage contamination, rusted nails and the possibility of critters in the water — everything from snakes to spiders to alligators.

Now that people are showing up in shelters, efforts are turning to helping people with both health issues arising from the flood — including respiratory and gastrointestinal problems — and with getting care for preexisting conditions, some of which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.

"That doesn't even obviously take into account the numerous injuries and the mental health issues that all come into play. So it's a very complicated response system," Shah tells All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro.

Shah remembers that after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, health workers set up clinics in shelters and asked people with anxiety or schizophrenia to come forward. Many were not willing to do so. "So we actually had to fan into the shelter to identify ourselves mental health issues," Shah recalls. "That's a big component and something we're also mindful of now."

Read more at NPR.

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