LIDO BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Superstorm Sandy brought mental anguish to millions. But she also left behind a surge of victims suffering from physical injuries — rashes, asthma, and even lung infections, linked to those living on the devastated South Shore — from the Rockaways to Babylon.
Homeowners in Long Island’s flood zones have been taking precautions, using protective suits, masks, gloves and boots as they warily clear muck, sewage and mold-infested wallboard. Hundreds of residents have been seeking medical attention, among them members of the Livolsi family.
“It is a major concern for both myself and my family. My nephew has a cough … put on steroids. No one has given us any information on what it could do long term, even short term,” Connie Livolsi told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan on Wednesday.
Lead paint, gasoline, and oil permeated streets, mixing with tons of debris and dust. Raw sewage spilled into several neighborhoods when Sandy’s surge overflowed and shut down Bay Park’s treatment plant.
With the medical center flooded in nearby Long Beach, up to 75 residents a day have sought help in M*A*S*H-type medical units –with the federal Disaster Medical Assistance team.
There have been complaints of scratchy throats, difficulty breathing, nausea and coughing.
“My head has been hurting and I never had a sinus infection like this before. The quality of the air, I’m scared. The dust, bacteria, sewage that backed up,” Long Beach resident Donna Strasser said.
Deputy Commander Christine Brexel said 10 percent of the patients she’s seen have been children.
State-of-the-art tents on a soccer field have transitioned a lot next to the flooded hospital, where 45-foot aluminum trailers have become a new ad-hoc emergency room.
Ricardo and Maria Vargas were first in line for tetanus and flu shots, emphasizing their fears of mold and sewage.
Doctors said red rashes and pneumonia, also seen in the aftermaths of Katrina and 9/11, must be monitored.
“Inevitably, it’s going to happen. How many and how bad it will be? Only time will tell,” Long Beach Medical Center Emergency Chief Dr. Robert Canter said.
Health officials and experts said the risks are real, but they cautioned against hysteria. Lasting effects generally require long-term, continuous exposure.
Doctors in the crisis centers reported an uptick in treating patients for carbon monoxide poisoning, infections from stepping on rusty nails, and burns from candles and boiled water — during Sandy’s aftermath.
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