Donald Roberts, Sr., was prying off molding from a wall in his hurricane-ravaged home when a piece broke loose and hit him, embedding a nail in his arm. He pulled out the nail and headed to a temporary emergency hospital in downtown New Orleans for a checkup and a tetanus shot, just in case.
Health officials say accidents like Roberts' and the explosion of mold in homes and buildings pose the biggest health risks in Gulf Coast areas hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The disease outbreaks feared earlier didn't happen in the weeks after the storms.
Roberts says his one-story home was filled with eight feet of water after Katrina and needs to be gutted. While waiting for his insurance payments, he's ripping out the walls himself.
In the days after Katrina hit, there were dire predictions of disease outbreaks from contaminated floodwaters, unsanitary living conditions and mosquitoes breeding in the hot and humid coastal climate.
Dr. Pierre Buekens, dean of Tulane's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, says the infectious disease risk was blown out of proportion, but the mental health risks and accidents were understated.
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