Doctors and pharmacists are warning of a sharp increase in skin infections and mosquito-borne diseases in cities where people have to wade through stagnant and rancid water on a daily basis.
- Doctors and pharmacists warn flooded communities of rise in skin infections, gastroenteritis and mold-related illnesses
- People are advised that the “strongest line of defence” against infection is to wash their hands with soap and water
- Authorities offer free Japanese encephalitis vaccines in flooded cities due to surge in mosquitoes
In Rochester, central Victoria, pharmacist Brett Phillips said more patients were suffering skin infections and dermatitis requiring treatment after open sores were exposed to contaminated water.
“Flood water is a terrible thing – it has germs and is full of chemicals,” he said.
“We’ve had people running around all day in wellies with their feet in a terrible mess and getting infected.
“The city of Rochester is going to be out of business for a while – it’s going to be a long, hard battle for everyone.”
Echuca pharmacist Kathy Kostoglou said many of her patients had blisters and sores on their feet from the constant rubbing of wet shoes, as well as sore backs and necks.
“They’re exhausted,” she said.
“It’s in their faces, their eyes, their speech.
“That expectation has caused people a lot of anxiety … people don’t sleep, so they want to have a sleep aid.”
“My guess is that the chiropractors will have a huge job ahead of them – they will all be physically and mentally exhausted.”
Mold, gastro and mozzies
Warm and humid weather in central Victoria and the North East has also exacerbated mold growth in homes.
“Obviously fungi can lead to many different skin problems, respiratory problems,” Loddon Mallee Health Unit Director Bruce Bolam said.
He said extensive mold should be cleaned with household bleach and urged people to seek help if needed.
“It’s important to get proper trade advice on how to clean it up, especially if it gets into air conditioning systems,” Dr Bolam said.
“We strongly recommend that people try to minimize contact with flood water, wear boots, gloves and good old soap and water is your friend in these situations.
“We’re all used to using hand sanitizer, but it’s ineffective against many of the bugs that cause gastro.
“So soap and water are especially important for anyone who works or lives in flood-affected communities.”
Dr Bolam said significant outbreaks of gastroenteritis were also likely.
“For food that’s spoiled, just destroy it,” he said.
“If your fridge has been damaged, the safest thing to do is just throw it in the bin.”
Rochester resident Stephen Harris has mold growing on every wall of his house.
He says he is taking medication after sustaining a cut on his hand while cleaning up the flood.
“I’ve lost a lot of weight in the last week and a half,” Mr Harris said.
“You don’t eat much, you don’t sleep much.
“If I had any cuts, they would all swell up, so… I had to get special medication from the doctor to avoid infection.
“And the mosquitoes are in plague proportions here at the moment.
“Eat Us Alive”
Doctors and pharmacists also warned people in flooded cities to continue taking asthma medication.
Dr Bolam said maintaining COVID-safe protocols was also vital for people displaced from their flood-damaged homes and sleeping in large groups in relief centres.
Rochester residents lined up this morning for free vaccinations against the mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis virus, even though some missed out.
With so much stagnant water lying around, residents said mosquitoes were “breeding out of control” and “eating us alive”.
Nurse Melissa Seelenmeyer said people should do everything they can to avoid contracting Ross River virus and Japanese encephalitis virus.
“Get vaccinated, use your mozzie spray because nobody wants to have either of those,” she said.
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