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Keeping safe after a cyclone

Saturday 12 April 2014

Far North Queenslanders are being urged to remain cautious after Cyclone Ita crossed the coast last night.

Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said people should remember to put their health first.

"I urge residents to consider their own safety carefully when cleaning up after Cyclone Ita," Dr Young said.

"This also includes food safety as many areas of Far North Queensland will have lost power overnight so food in fridges may be unsafe to eat.

"It is useful to make a note of the time the power failed and to keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible while the power is off. A closed refrigerator should keep food cold for about four hours.

"Freezers will usually not defrost and spoil food for at least 24 hours, provided the door has been kept shut. If frozen foods have thawed, they should not be refrozen but should be kept cold and eaten as soon as possible.

"If you have access to ice, pack your refrigerator and freezer to help maintain a cool temperature."

Dr Young said it was just as important to keep hot food hot.

"Throw out food that was being cooked when the power failed, if the cooking cannot be completed within two hours. If food is already properly cooked, eat it within two hours or throw it out.

"Remember, if in doubt, throw it out!"

Dr Young said generator safety also was important with a number of people using them during power failures.

"Carbon monoxide poisoning is a real risk for people in the vicinity of a petrol-powered generator or pump if these are used in an enclosed area," she said.

"Make sure generators and pumps are situated in well-ventilated areas, preferably outside."

Dr Young said Far Northern residents also should be careful in floodwaters.

Apart from the danger of being swept away and drowning, floodwaters also could increase the risk of diseases such leptospirosis, melioidosis, dengue fever and diarrhoeal diseases, she said.

"To minimise health risks, do not swim in floodwater and ensure that you and your children keep away from stormwater drains and creeks," Dr Young said.

"Wear solid boots or shoes when walking through shallow surface water as it may be contaminated.

"If your house has been flooded, wear gloves and covered shoes when cleaning up and treat any cuts immediately with antiseptic. Apply a protective dressing to the wound and see a doctor if injuries are serious."

For more information visit the Queensland Health disasters webpage.

Quick food safety tips

  • do not open your fridge or freezer door unnecessarily
  • refrigerated food will spoil sooner than frozen food, so eat any perishable foods in your fridge first, such as dairy products and meat
  • if your power has been cut and you have not kept your freezer stocked with ice, food will start to spoil and should be eaten immediately. What can't be eaten should be thrown out
  • throw out any food that has started to spoil, especially if it smells bad, tastes strange or is slimy.

Reduce your risk of injury

  • don't try and do it too quickly, and get assistance if the job is too big
  • look out for snakes and spiders, which may have moved to drier ground
  • be careful when operating chainsaws and other vegetation-clearing equipment. Wear protective clothing and keep children and pets away
  • do not handle wet electrical equipment
  • even in cloudy conditions, protect yourself from the sun and ensure you drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Reduce your risk of disease

  • avoid unnecessary contact with mud and dirt
  • wear boots and gloves when cleaning up
  • clean cuts and scratches with salty water or antiseptic and apply a waterproof dressing. If the skin around cuts becomes red or sore, see your doctor
  • wash your hands thoroughly before eating or smoking
  • shower thoroughly with soap at the end of each day
  • clean and disinfect any household surfaces which have come into contact with floodwater
  • throw out any flood-damaged food.


Last updated: 11 June 2014