South West Hospital and Health Service Executive Director of Medical Services Dr Debra Tennett.
South West Hospital and Health Service Executive Director of Medical Services Dr Debra Tennett.

Health warning to southwest residents amid rain, floods

Heavy rain and flooding across southwest Queensland has prompted health authorities to issue a 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 have been 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 southwest 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

and melioidosis.

"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 mosquitoes.''

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 unrefridgerated 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 label
  • food containers with screw or twist caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soft drink bottles) and flip tops.

Dr Tennett said carbon monoxide poisoning also was a real risk for people near a petrol-powered 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 said.

For more information on recovery from disasters visit:

For information on waterborne bacterial infections such as leptospirosis and melioidosis, visit:

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