Health official spreads the word about health risks after Harvey

HOUSTON -- Dr. Umair Shah is making the rounds in the flooded areas of Houston. As the Harris County Public Health director, he's warning residents about the risks they face while cleaning up their homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller. 

"The enemy of this is mold and mold loves moisture," Shah said.

Xiomi Smoyczek got a foot of water, and now mold is growing in her garage and inside her house.

screen-shot-2017-09-04-at-7-11-36-pm-1.png

Dr. Umair Shah is warning Houston residents about the risks they face while cleaning up their homes.

CBS News

"When you took out the sheetrock and cabinetry were you wearing protective masks?" Miller asked.

"No," Smoyczek said.

"See, that's what we've been saying: 'Make sure you wear protection when you're doing all of this,' because what we don't want is when you're trying to help everything -- and get back to normal life -- is that you also get sick in the process," Shah told Smoyczek.

Shah said that it's important to clean up fast because of what contaminated water left behind. Floodwater can also harbor dangerous bacteria, which can enter the body through cuts and scrapes.  

"We went to a couple of spots, where you saw earlier, there were nails. You just don't know if you're going prick yourself and bam, there you are. Now you're at risk for tetanus," Shah said.

screen-shot-2017-09-04-at-7-11-45-pm-2.png

Residents clean up Houston homes damaged by Harvey.

CBS News

Despite the hazards, residents have no choice but to clean up.

"Some of this might even be sewage waste, we don't know," one resident said. "We have to get it cleaned up to get back in."

On top of all that, many of the estimated 100,000 homes that were flooded now have mountains of debris in front of them. Still soaked with dirty water, they are sure to attract all kinds of critters that will carry their own diseases.