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Sandy: The Storm's Aftermath

As a long recovery begins, public health concerns arise. 

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Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Sandy, the storm that ravaged the East Coast this week, left a trail of destruction from North Carolina to New York to West Virginia. With rescue efforts largely complete, NBC reports that a full recovery could take years. From NBC News:

By Thursday, nearly all rescue efforts had ended along the ruined Jersey Shore and on Long Island, two places particularly hard hit by wind and storm surge. Recovery has begun.

As of 7 a.m. Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said more than 36,000 disaster survivors in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have applied for federal temporary housing assistance, and $3.4 million worth had been approved to support immediate needs. All three of those states have been given major disaster declarations, making them eligible for a wide swath of federal disaster aid.

"We are here for you," President Barack Obama said Wednesday in Brigantine, N.J., touring a ravaged shore alongside New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. "We are not going to tolerate red tape. We are not going to tolerate bureaucracy."

In addition to those three states, New Hampshire, Virginia, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Massachusetts were given emergency disaster declarations, which can "trigger aid that protects property, public health, and safety and lessens or averts the threat of an incident becoming a catastrophic event," according to the Congressional Research Service.

Meanwhile, public health officials are concerned about water, air and even food-related public health threats in the wake of the "superstorm." From NPR:

"Floodwaters potentially could contain mixtures of a variety of chemicals such as pesticides, paint, gasoline, you know other things for example that you might store in your garage or your basement that might actually get all flooded out," says Tina Tan, the state epidemiologist for the New Jersey Department of Health.

In several places, sewage-treatment plants have been paralyzed by fires or flooding. In these areas, bacteria and other pathogens might make people sick.

"That kind of shows up as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms related to gastrointestinal illnesses," Tan says.

These infections can be serious for babies, the elderly and people who are already sick ...

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