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Queenslanders urged to keep healthy during cyclone clean-up

Queenslanders in areas affected by Cyclone Debbie are being urged to remain cautious as the clean-up begins.

Queensland’s Chief Health officer Dr Jeannette Young said keeping safe after a natural disaster is important.

“As much as residents want to get the clean-up started right away, I urge you to consider your own health and safety during this period, such as food safety and risk of injury or disease,” Dr Young said.

“Many areas lost power during the storm so the food in your fridges and freezers would be impacted.

“When it comes to food safety, always remember that if in doubt, throw it out – and now the power outage has been for longer than 24 hours all perishable food should not be consider safe to eat.

“After four hours without power, food in the refrigerator should be thrown out and after 24 hours food in the freezer needs to be cooked, consumed or thrown out.”

Dr Young said floodwaters and excess moisture can bring diseases and creepy crawlies closer to home.

“Apart from the very serious danger of being swept away or drowning, floodwaters also increase the risk of diseases such leptospirosis, melioidosis and diarrhoea.

“Avoid walking or wading through flood waters where possible and do not swim in floodwaters at all; and this includes ensuring children and pets are kept clear of the water.

Dr Young also said people should be aware of possible issues with drinking water supplies and urged everyone to follow any water alerts issued by the local council.

“Wear protective clothing like boots and gloves if you’re cleaning up in flood-affected areas, and disinfect household surfaces that have come into contact with floodwater.

“Try to avoid contact with mud and dirt, and wash your hands thoroughly before eating and after touching pets that might have come into contact with water or soil.

“If you receive a cut or scrape during the clean-up, treat it with antiseptic and cover with protective dressing immediately. If the cut becomes red or sore, see your doctor.

“Also look out for snakes and spiders as they may have moved to drier ground.”

Dr Young said generator safety is also important 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."

Additional tips for keeping healthy during disaster clean-up:

  • Throw out any perishable food that has started to spoil, especially if it smells bad, tastes strange or is slimy.
  • Throw out any flood-damaged food.
  • Avoid injury by not doing anything too quickly, and get assistance if the job is too big.
  • Do not handle wet electrical equipment or touch fallen powerlines.
  • Even in cloudy conditions, protect yourself from the sun and ensure you drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before eating or smoking.
  • Wash thoroughly with soap at the end of each day.

For more information, visit the Queensland Government website.

Media contact: +61 7 3234 1439

Last updated: 29 March 2017