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Infectious diseases

Contaminated floodwater

Floodwaters contaminated with sewage may carry a range of viruses and parasites.

Experience from past floods has shown that the greatest risk of disease is through infected cuts and abrasions.

To help prevent infection follow these guidelines:

  • treat all floodwater as potentially contaminated with sewage
  • thoroughly wash your hands after coming in contact with flood contaminated materials
  • wear gloves
  • avoid contact between cuts or abrasions and floodwater or contaminated materials
  • keep children away from flood-affected areas and avoid all unnecessary contact with mud and floodwaters
  • ensure your feet are covered if they are likely to come into contact with mud
  • always wear gloves when handling flood affected items or mud
  • always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water after handling flood affected items, cleaning up, going to the toilet or before eating food
  • only use clean eating utensils, toothbrushes, towels or handkerchiefs
  • all cuts and abrasions should be cleaned, treated with antiseptic and covered immediately
  • seek medical attention if you have deep wounds, or if any wounds develop redness or swelling - check your tetanus status
  • use an insect repellent on exposed skin areas to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes - reapply every two hours and cover up as much as possible with loose-fitting clothing.

Seek medical assistance if you or your family have severe vomiting or diarrhoea. If you have these symptoms, you will require extra fluids containing a mixture of electrolytes and sugars, such as Gastrolyte, which can be purchased from local chemists.

Read more about health emergencies.

Melioidosis

Melioidosis is a disease caused by bacteria that live in the soil. After rain the bacteria are found in mud and water on the ground and can get blown around in the air.
It can enter the body through cuts and sores in the skin, but also through inhalation of dust or droplets.

People most at risk are those with health concerns such as diabetes, hazardous alcohol intake, kidney disease, lung disease and cancer, as well as those on steroid therapy or other immunosuppressive treatment.

Take extra care when cleaning up after a cyclone or flood:

  • wear appropriate clothing - gloves, closed in shoes, long pants and long sleeves
  • after encountering muddy situations shower or wash as soon as possible so not to leave mud on the skin for a long time
  • when using high-pressure hoses wear a facemask, particularly after a cyclone and especially those who have a higher risk.
  • wash all cuts thoroughly in water and cover with a bandage as soon as possible. If the wound is not healing or it becomes infected, seek medical advice.

Symptoms, which can develop in a few days, include fever, headaches, confusion and breathing difficulties. Symptoms slower to develop are weight loss, intermittent fevers, chest and abdominal pain or sores or wounds that will not heal.

If concerned about melioidosis please contact your local GP or hospital.

Read more information on melioidosis.