NC man dies from bacteria infection during Florence aftermath clean-up

WILMINGTON, N.C. — A North Carolina man has died from a bacterial infection he contracted in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, according to CNN.

Doctors in Wilmington said Ron Phelps scraped his leg while cleaning up his yard in the days after the hurricane.

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The cut became infected, forcing doctors to amputate his leg, but it wasn't enough to save him.

Phelps' family updated community members on his illness through a Facebook page with nearly 9,000 followers. Phelps would share photos and memories of his hometown on the page.

His niece, Paula Phelps Turner, announced his death in a post saying, "I sadly need to tell you that Uncle Ronnie quietly passed away this morning. He loved being friends with each and every one of you."

[RELATED: Parts of Stanly County inundated by floodwaters]

David Howard, deputy director of public health in New Hanover County, said, "It really comes down to bacterial infections that are common in the environment that end up in floodwaters that people are not normally exposed to in a great quantity."

The health department has administered tetanus vaccinations to people involved in the cleanup efforts who may also be at a higher risk for contracting bacterial infections.

People with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly, are at particular risk for bacterial infections, Howard said.

[Florence aftermath: Dead fish pile up on North Carolina interstate]

Officials warned residents to stay out of floodwaters to avoid bacteria and other infections.

Authorities have also warned about mosquitoes, mold and snakes that have become an issue in the aftermath of the storm.

Wilma Subra, a chemist and environmental health scientist in Louisiana, told CNN that residents should be concerned about contamination in their yards and homes.

She cautioned people to use protective gear when cleaning up, as even health threats common in other hurricanes, like exposure to sewage, could be a problem.

[RELATED: Body of missing 1-year-old swept away by floodwaters found in Union County]

"That's what happened after Katrina. They went back and got boils on their legs (from exposure to sewage)," Subra said.

According to a statement released from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, there have been 37 deaths in North Carolina and eight in South Carolina related to Florence.

Most of the deaths were due to vehicles caught in floodwater, but some have been cleanup-related.

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