Hurricane Sandy left a path of destruction in New York and New Jersey, but in some cases, those rushing in to clean up are exhibiting symptoms of illnesses that may be related to the storm’s debris, according to the New York Times.
Makeshift medical centers in Long Beach and the Rockaways have seen victims coming in complaining of rashes, asthma and coughing, says the paper. Many need tetanus shots, and are suffering from chest pain.
“I’ve been coughing,” said Gabriel McAuley, who has been hauling debris in the Rockaways since the storm hit, according to the Times. “I’ve never felt a cough like that before. It’s deeper down.”
Raw sewage spilled into many homes in Nassau County, after a nearby plant shut down and many in the vicinity reported stomach pains, coughing and itching. Carbon monoxide poisoning is another real fear for those affected – in New Jersey, several people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning after mishandling generators.
“It’s just like 9/11,” Kathy Smilardi, a Broad Channel resident, told the paper. “Everyone runs in to clean up, and they’re not wearing masks. Are we going to wait 20 years to figure out that people are dying?”
The federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team in Long Beach has seen more than 500 patients since Nov. 5, according to the Times, but that number is steadily rising. About 75 patients come in a day now, and 10 percent of them are children, often with respiratory problems.
For those helping to clean up storm-ravaged areas, health officials urge wearing masks, gloves and boots and removing mold-infested wallboard.