Houston residents are at risk of chronic diseases and infections, experts have said.

The storm has already forced thousands to be homeless with dirty water soaking through drywall, carpeting, mattresses and furniture across the area.

And the massive cleanup challenge ahead for the cities will pose short and long-term health problems.

The water has likely dredged up sewage, chemicals and waterborne germs that will put anyone in contact at risk for intestinal issues, wound infections and the West Nile virus.

Health and Human Secretary Dr Tom Price declared a public health emergency in the state of Texas on Sunday due to the extreme hazards from the hurricane.

But now hospitals and shelters are scrambling across the area to protect people from the many diseases the storm could cause.

Although the rain might be clean, what it dredges up from the sewers and around the area is not.

Floodwater can contain harmful sewage, chemicals and waterborne germs that can cause infections and diseases for people.

Experts said people in Texas could get viruses from ingesting the water or food that has been in contact with the floodwater, which would cause symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting.

At a shelter set up inside Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center, Dr. David Persse is building a clinic of doctors and nurses and trying to prevent the spread of viruses or having to send people to hospitals already stretched thin.

‘This is rapidly evolving,’ said Persse, Houston Director of Emergency Medical Services. ‘I always worry in these large congregations of people about viral outbreaks that cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. And we are just getting started.’

Hurricane Katrina also taught officials lessons.

‘In Katrina, a lot of people were concerned about illnesses from contact with the floodwater, but more infectious disease was associated with poor hygiene in overcrowded shelter facilities,’ said Karen Levy, associate professor of environmental health at Emory University in Atlanta.

At Houston-area shelters, access to clean water or hand sanitizer and proper disposal of human waste should be stressed, she said.

Objects that have been submerged in water can also cause infection if touched or used after.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends parents to throw out toys for children that were in the rain water unless they are thoroughly cleaned.

The most common flood-related deaths occur when people try to drive through flooded areas, according to the CDC.

Carbon monoxide may kill more as people return to homes without electricity and hook up generators, said the CDC’s Renee Funk.

“Any sort of roof over a generator is actually a problem,’ Funk said. ‘When people go in and out to refill the generator they can be overcome. If a structure is attached to the house, the house can fill with fumes. Best advice: Use a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in the house if you’re using a generator for power,” she said.

Mold is also a health hazard.

The CDC recommends removing and disposing of drywall and insulation that was tainted by floodwater or sewage.

Mattresses, pillows, carpeting – even stuffed toys – should be tossed out. Hard surfaces can be disinfected with a solution of one cup of bleach to five gallons of water.

‘That little spot of mold can grow in the home especially in the heat of the South,’ said Dr. Parham Jaberi of the Louisiana Department of Health.

If mold covers more than 100 square feet, a trained mold remover is recommended, he said.

President Donald Trump yesterday told a crowd of Texans, who lined up outside a Corpus Christi firehouse he was visiting that the recovery effort is ‘going well’ and his administration is ‘here to take care of you.’

‘We love you. You are special,’ the president said to cheers from onlookers. ‘This is historic, it’s epic, what happened, but you know what, it happened in Texas. Texas can handle anything.’

The president held up the Texas flag as he delivered the impromptu remarks to the throng of cheering Corpus Christi residents after a briefing on relief efforts from emergency responders.

Trump lauded state and federal officials once more for their handling of Harvey during the stop, his second of several in storm-stricken Texas, and told the group of 1,000 or so supporters: ‘We are here to take care of you,”

The U.S. president said inside, at his briefing, that it was too early for ‘congratulations’ be passed around – ‘we’ll congratulate each other when it’s all finished,’ he said – but told Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott that he has ‘been terrific’ in the face of historic floods and he hopes the joint efforts will become example of how to manage a storm.

‘We want to do it better than ever before. We want to be looked at in five years, in ten years from now as, this is the way to do it,’ Trump told Abbott during the Corpus Christi briefing. ‘This was of epic proportion. Nobody’s ever seen anything like this.’

The president and first lady arrived in Corpus Christi earlier this afternoon on the first leg of their trip to survey the storm-ravaged Gulf and meet with relief providers. They’re on a second flight to Austin now and will return to Washington later in the day.

They deplaned Air Force One at 11:30 am local time in Corpus Christi with an entourage that included Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon.

Abbott was on the tarmac to meet them them in Corpus Christi, where the sun was shining and the local temperature was a balmy 82°F when the first couple landed.

President Trump gave a wave as a he walked off the government aircraft in the same windbreaker sporting the presidential seal, khaki pants and brown boots he was wearing when he boarded.

First Lady Melania Trump had swapped the black stilettos she’d been see for white tennis shoes that she paired with a white top. She’d ditched an olive-green jacket she wore from the White House to Air Force One, as well, but kept a pair of black aviators and added a black hat bearing her title, ‘FLOTUS.’

Her husband wore the white ‘USA’ cap he’d been seen wearing over the weekend as he received a briefing on the tropical storm at Camp David.

There, they received an update from FEMA Administrator Brock Long, who President Trump commented has become ‘very famous on television over the last couple of days’ as a result of the weather event that was previously defined as a hurricane but has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

‘You have been just outstanding,’ Trump told Long just before the briefing.

At their second stop, in the state’s capital city, the president and first lady will tour the Texas public safety department’s emergency operations center.

Trump promised on Monday to ‘take care’ of Texas and Louisiana through the ‘long and difficult road’ to recovery as floods triggered by Tropical Storm Harvey wreaked havoc on the Houston area.

‘It’s the biggest ever. They are saying it is the biggest. It’s historic,’ Trump said, addressing reporters in the Oval Office.

He said at a press conference shortly after, ‘Nobody has ever seen anything like it.’

“I’ve heard the words ‘epic’, I’ve heard ‘historic.’ And that’s what it is.”

Trump said the nation would emerge “bigger, better, stronger than ever before” after the storm that’s ransacking the Gulf.

“We ask God for his wisdom and strength. We will get through this,’ Trump said. ‘The rebuilding will begin. And in the end it will be something very special.”

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