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Epidemiological Alert: Post-flood public health events in the context of COVID-19 pandemic, 10 February 2022


Given the frequent occurrence of floods in various countries of the Region of the Americas and in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) urges Member States to strengthen post-flood epidemiological surveillance strategies in order to timely identify and control events that could have a serious impact on public health.


Between November 2021 and January 2022, floods or flood alerts of various magnitudes have been reported in countries in the Region of the Americas, including in Bolivia (1-3), Brazil (3-6), Colombia (7), Ecuador (8), the United States of America (9,10), Haiti (11), Peru (12-15), the Dominican Republic (16), and Uruguay (17), among others. In addition, the La Niña phenomenon, which is expected to last until March 2022, will have a heterogeneous impact across South America.

Heavy rainfall is a recurring and seasonal meteorological phenomenon, which is followed by flooding in susceptible areas. Depending on the magnitude of the flooding, these can cause the collapse of critical infrastructure and human settlements as well as changes in the environment, which could lead to any of the following:

• Disruption of public services for water supply, energy, communication, health, and education, among others

• Overflow of sewage systems

• Contamination of crops or stored and prepared foods with flood water

• Displacement of population and fauna

• Inadequate disposal of solid waste and excreta

• Increase in vectors such as mosquitoes and rodents

• Possible disruption of essential supply chains, such as food and commerce, including medical materials and supplies, among others

The aforementioned increases the risk of bacteriological contamination (due to wastewater, general waste, human and animal tissues or fluids, among others), and chemical and physical contamination (due to sediment) of drinking water and food for consumption, which consequently may lead to public health risks of varying magnitude.