The Infectious and Noninfectious Dermatological Consequences of Flooding: A Field Manual for the Responding Provider.
BACKGROUND Concerns over increased reports of physical health symptoms thought to be related to floodwater exposure among New Orleans firefighters prompted a health hazard evaluation of firefighters following Hurricane Katrina. METHODS A questionnaire assessing health symptoms possibly related to the response to Hurricane Katrina was administered to all New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD) personnel within 3 months of the disaster. Descriptive statistics were compiled and prevalence ratios (PR) were estimated for covariates using generalized linear models with Log link and Poisson distribution. RESULTS Of the 525 firefighters who completed the questionnaire (77% participation), 201 (38%) reported one or more new-onset respiratory symptoms, such as sinus congestion (145 [28%]), throat irritation (92 [17%]), and cough (124 [24%]). Skin rash was reported by 258 (49%) of respondents, 414 (79%) reported skin contact with floodwater, and 165 (32%) reported contact with floodwater on multiple days. In multivariate analyses adjusting for age, gender, and smoking, firefighters who had floodwater contact with skin and either nose/mouth or eyes (224, 44%) had an increased rate of new-onset upper respiratory symptoms (PR = 1.9; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1, 3.1), and skin rash (PR = 2.1; 95% CI, 1.4, 3.2) compared to those not exposed to the floodwater. CONCLUSIONS Response workers involved with floodwater should minimize direct skin and mucosal contact with floodwater if possible through the use of appropriate personal protective equipment, such as goggles, safety glasses with side shields, or full-face shields.