23 March 2021
Take care of health and safety during flood conditions
Heavy rain and flooding across the South West region have prompted health authorities to issue
a timely reminder to affected residents to look after their safety and health.
South West Hospital and Health Service Executive Director of Medical Services Dr Debra
Tennett said some areas of the region were currently affected by flooding.
“There is also the possibility that some communities might be cut off for up to 48 hours if the
rain continues to fall,’’ she said.
“Other than potential road access issues, there is no direct threat to any of our health facilities
and all are continuing to function as normal.
“But we have prepared for isolation and have plans in place for resupply of our facilities during
the period if required.
“We will also be liaising closely with the Queensland Ambulance Service and the Royal Flying
Doctor Service and ensuring any community clients that might potentially be affected by road
closures have their clinical requirements taken care off.’’
Dr Tennett said all South West residents should be aware of the increased risk of infection if
people came into direct contact with polluted waters.
Wound infections, dermatitis, conjunctivitis, and ear, nose and throat infections can occur.
All wounds should be immediately cleaned, disinfected and kept covered.
“You should also consider avoiding flood water and mud if you have broken skin or wounds,
especially if you have diabetes or other chronic diseases,’’ Dr Tennett said.
“And please see a health professional or your doctor early for severe wounds, especially if the
wound is dirty or becomes red, sore, swollen or painful.’’
Floods may also increase the risk of diarrhoeal conditions and diseases such as leptospirosis
“To minimise health risks, do not swim in floodwater and ensure that you and your children keep
away from stormwater drains and creeks,” Dr Tennett said. “Remember, the current in floodwaters can be very strong, can sweep people away and the risk
of drowning is high. Submerged tree stumps and other materials in floodwater also may cause
major injury or death.
“So, if it’s flooded – forget it.
“And avoid wading even in shallow water, as it may be contaminated – if you must enter shallow
flood water, wear solid boots or shoes for protection.’’
Dr Tennett said people cleaning up flood-affected areas should wear sunscreen, insect
repellent, boots, gloves and a hat, drink plenty of water and clean and cover wounds.
Frequent washing of hands also is essential.
“Always wash your hands with soap and water before handling food, and after handling pets
that may have swum in contaminated water,’’ she said.
“If drinking-quality water is not available and hands look clean, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
For hands that are dirty or feel gritty, wash hands and then apply an alcohol-based hand rub.’’
Dr Tennett said heavy rain and flooding also provided ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
“Prevention is the key when it comes to mosquito-borne diseases,’’ she said.
“Wearing long, loose, light-coloured clothing and insect repellent, using insect spray, mosquito
coils or plug-in devices at home, emptying containers around your yard and repairing insect
screens are all ways to prevent getting bitten by mosquitos.’’
Maintaining food safety after an emergency also was important, especially if power had been
cut or food had been in contact with contaminated floodwater, Dr Tennett said.
“Eating food that has not been refrigerated for some time can lead to gastrointestinal illnesses
which can be serious,” she said.
“These illnesses can cause serious vomiting, diarrhoea or sepsis (blood poisoning).”
After an emergency, it is recommended that you dispose of:
food that has been in contact with floodwater
food that has an unusual odour, colour or texture
refrigerated food that has been left unrefrigerated or above 5°C for more than four hours
frozen food after 48 hours (if the freezer is full) or after 24 hours (if the freezer is only half
full). If frozen food has partially thawed, the food should be eaten as soon as possible canned food where the can is open, swollen or damaged, or has a missing or damaged
food containers with screw or twist caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soft drink bottles) and
Dr Tennett said carbon monoxide poisoning also was a real risk for people near a petrolpowered generator or pump if these were used in an enclosed area.
“Make sure generators and pumps are situated in well-ventilated areas, preferably outside,’’ she
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23 March 2021