Five people, who survived hurricane Katrina that hit the region of New Orleans, died from a bacteria-caused illness. However, public health officials are more concerned about toxic chemicals in the water covering New Orleans than they are about a cholera outbreak. It’s been more than a week since the hurricane and it is still not known whether water contains toxic chemicals or not. The experts are still trying to figure that out.
Even though it is said that cholera hasn’t struck this region for a long time, the public health officials are preparing for possible outbreaks of infectious disease. They are focusing on E. coli and other diseases that can cause diarrhea, including Norwalk viruses, which have caused outbreaks on cruise ships.
Laboratory tests of water samples in New Orleans found it loaded with fecal material. Three samples were given in labs and the results showed 20,000 fecal coliform colonies per 100 milliliters of water, the highest the lab could count. That's 100 times the normal count found in water runoff from storms.
A lot of effort is being made to limit contact with flood water due to potentially elevated levels of contamination associated with raw sewage and other hazardous substances. Authorities also are watching for respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold, influenza and tuberculosis.