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Hurricane Katrina’s Flood Legacy Does Not Include Disease


May 1, 2007

When the levees broke in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, officials
feared that Lake Pontchartrain might be infiltrated with
disease-causing microbes from a “toxic gumbo” of water, polluted
sediments, and sewage. In the weeks after the flood, scientists from
several U.S. Centers for Oceans and Human Health, including WHOI
biologist Rebecca Gast, mobilized to sample the mud and waters around
the lake. After several months of study, the research team found the
influence of contaminated floodwaters on Lake Pontchartrain was
relatively short-lived, limited to coastal areas, and did not leave a
lasting contamination or disease problem. For her part, Gast and her
Woods Hole colleagues looked for the presence and persistence of
microbes and certain pathogens. In addition, Gast organized a workshop
and colloquium in Woods Hole in November 2006 that allowed scientists
to compare their findings and assemble them into a publication that
appeared in May 2007 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of

Related Links
» Impacts of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Microbial Landscape of the New Orleans Area
» Woods Hole Center for Oceans and Human Health
» Who is Rebecca Gast?
» The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Human Pathogens in Lake Pontchartrain
» Legions of Legionella Bacteria from Oceanus magazine