Department of Health Advises on Best Practices After Hurricane

Government of the United States Virgin Islands Department of Health

Now that Hurricane Dorian has moved away from the Virgin Islands, there is much Virgin Islanders can do to safely return to their regular routines. The V.I. Department of Health (DOH) provides the following recommendations to help residents stay safe and healthy as the territory recovers:

Food and Water Safety
Do not use water you suspect or have been told is contaminated to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula. Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or treated water. Boil water for at least 1 minute (start counting when the water comes to a constant boil). Let the water cool sufficiently before drinking. Boiling kills germs in the water.

Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water; perishable foods that have not been refrigerated properly due to power outages; and those with an unusual odor, color, or texture. Unsafe food can make you sick even if it looks, smells and tastes normal. When in doubt, throw it out.

Keeping Your Home Clean After the Storm:
Bleach is very helpful for cleaning your home, especially if it has come in contact with flood water. Protect yourself by wearing boots, gloves and goggles while cleaning. Also, make sure you have access to fresh air. The space you are cleaning should have plenty of fresh air. Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaners because this can create dangerous, toxic fumes. Seek medical help if you experience the signs and symptoms of chlorine exposure, such as migraines, blurred vision or difficulty breathing. To prevent the spread of germs, keep your hands clean with soap and water. Finally, remember to always wash your hands before meals and after using the bathroom.

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Taking Care of Yourself and Your Loved Ones:
Part of surviving any storm or disaster is considering your thoughts, emotions and feelings. It is normal to feel fear, grief and depression after a disastrous event. Talk with someone or call the SAMHSA Disaster Counseling Helpline at 1-800-985-5990. Help is available for Spanish speakers at the same number, simply dial “2” for Spanish or text “TalkWithUS” for English or “Hablanos” for Spanish to 66746.

Tips to Help Cope After the Storm:
● Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol or other drugs.
● Connect with others. Share your feelings and maintain relationships and support systems.
● Take some time to rest and unwind. Return to activities you enjoy.
● Stay informed. Know what is happening in your community.

Here are some tips to help children cope and learn resiliency:
● Share age appropriate information with them.
● Reassure them.
● Help them understand the facts and dispel rumors.
● Answer their questions.
● Set a good example by taking care of yourself.

Know the signs and symptoms of distress and talk with a healthcare provider if these symptoms interfere with your daily activities:
● Feelings of shock, numbness or disbelief
● Change in energy or activity levels
● Difficulty concentrating
● Changes in appetite
● Sleeping problems or nightmares
● Feeling anxious, fearful or angry
● Headaches, body pain or skin rashes
● Chronic health problems get worse
● Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

Safely Using a Generator:
Generators produce carbon monoxide gas while they are generating electricity. Carbon monoxide is a deadly poison gas that is odorless and colorless but can kill within minutes.
Never use your generator indoors, in garages or other enclosed areas adjacent to your home. Generators should not be used any closer than 20 feet from windows or doors.

With these tips, your recovery efforts will reflect safe and healthy habits that will benefit you, your family and the community. If you have any questions or would like more tips on hurricane preparedness and recovery, visit the Department of Health website at www.doh.vi.gov.

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