Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist February 2011 Contents Vol. 30 -- February #02
• constant questioning -- 'What if I
had done x, y or z, instead?'
• replaying the event and inventing
different outcomes in order to be
prepared should it happen again.
'These reactions can be severe and
are at their worst in the first week.
However, in most cases, they fade
over a month. If a person's day-to-
day functioning is seriously affected
for more than two months after the
event, it's important to discuss it with
a GP or mental health professional,
The ANU's Professor Tony McMichael
also warned that increasing numbers
of mosquitoes breeding in the warm,
wet conditions could cause fresh
outbreaks of the potentially deadly
dengue fever and debilitating Ross
River virus after the floods. Murray
River encephalitis, a mosquito borne
disease with a 10--20% mortality rate,
could also emerge.
Professor McMichael said dangerous
industrial, agricultural and domestic
chemicals in the flood waters may also
be a problem if people accidentally
inhale them or get them in their eyes.
'There's a pretty unholy mix of
potential microbial and chemical
' he said.
Associate Professor Peng Bi, of the
School of Population Health and
Clinical Practice at Adelaide University,
reiterated the warning of an increased
threat of mosquito-borne diseases and
outbreaks of gastro.
He said floodwaters had destroyed
water treatment plants and could
lead to the contamination of drinking
supplies and urged people in affected
areas to boil their water or only drink
In the wake of the flood
Floods may increase the risk of
diseases such as leptospirosis,
melioidosis, dengue fever and
diarrhoeal diseases. However,
Queensland Health says the risk
is generally low and outbreaks of
disease following flooding are not
common in Australia.
There is an increased risk of wound
infections, dermatitis, conjunctivitis,
and ear, nose and throat infections if
people come into direct contact with
polluted waters. People with diabetes
should take extra care to protect
themselves against wound infections.
The major risk factor for outbreaks
associated with flooding is the
contamination of drinking water.
Residents are urged to check
rainwater tanks, particularly in-ground
tanks. If they have been inundated
with flood waters, the water may have
been contaminated and should be
discarded. The water tank should be
appropriately disinfected using enough
chlorine to give an initial chlorine dose
of 5 mg/L.
Health and safety advice
Flooding from severe storm activity or
cyclones is the most common disaster
scenario in Australia. Following
the initial damage to property and
infrastructure, floodwater that
has receded can still cause death,
sickness and injury. Queensland
Health advises the following courses
of action be taken:
• Protect skin from cuts and abrasions
that introduce infection from
dormant bacteria activated by
the floodwater. Deaths from rare
diseases, such as melioidosis, have
occurred from previous floods in
• Clean and disinfect all wounds
and keep them covered. A tetanus
vaccination may be required in
• Sandflies and mosquitoes are going
to breed rapidly. Residents should
cover their skin with long sleeves
and long pants and apply insect
repellent to exposed skin following
the directions on the label.
• Always wear covered shoes, indoors
and out. Cuts from broken glass
and debris are always a problem
• Don't play or wade in flood
water. Drowning can occur in fast
flowing water as well as in unseen
washouts or holes.
• Watch out for snakes and spiders
that may have hidden inside houses
as the flood water rose.
• Wash hands with soap and water
after touching flood water and mud
or going to the toilet and before
eating or making food.
• Discard any food that has been in
the water, except if it has been in a
water proof container (tin or bottle).
Wash tins or bottles using one cup
of household bleach to a bucket of
water. Re-label containers with a
marker if the labels come off.
• If there has been a backflow of
sewage into the house, wear
waterproof gloves and rubber boots
during the clean-up.
• Clean walls and floors with soap
• Clean food contact surfaces
(benches and fridges) with soap
and water and then disinfect using
a solution consisting of one cup of
bleach to a bucket of clean water.
• Wash linen and clothing in
• Items that cannot be washed and
disinfected should be discarded.
Remove and discard absorbent
household materials such as
mattresses, upholstered furniture,
curtains, wall coverings, rugs and
• Take all necessary precautions for
handling asbestos cement debris.
Contact your local council or
emergency workers for information
on any special requirements or
arrangements relating to waste
collection and disposal.
Ensuring safe drinking water
A key disease risk associated with
flooding is the contamination of
drinking water. Some recommended
actions to take include:
• Conserve treated drinking water
and use it for drinking and sanitation
only. Those functions which use
water and are not immediately
necessary (e.g. washing clothes,
using a dishwasher) should be left
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