Mozzies and mice more than a nuisance: Health District urges caution in aftermath of flood

Paddocks have become wetlands and many of us have no option but to deal with flood waters and mud, so Health has some tips for avoiding serious illness.
Paddocks have become wetlands and many of us have no option but to deal with flood waters and mud, so Health has some tips for avoiding serious illness.

Mozzies, stagnant water and flood mud are unavoidable for some locals right now, and the Western NSW Local Health District's director of public health Priscilla Stanley is urging people to take all precautions at this time.

"With the widespread flooding, we have concerns in public health about the increased risk of some diseases and those include mosquito-borne diseases - particularly Ross River virus," she said.

"With the amount of water and the fact that there's going to be water now laying stagnant, it will increase the opportunity for breeding of mosquitoes."

Western NSW LHD has routine mosquito monitoring and is already receiving reports of increased mosquito numbers.

"At this stage we haven't had an increase in human illness but we do know there's an increase in mosquito numbers so we do want people to be careful," Ms Stanley said.

"Most people have very mild illness (with Ross River virus), but there are some people that do get incredibly unwell and it can be a bit of a long term issue for them."

Forbes Shire Council has advised it will be treating areas of the lake, parks, and gardens, and our sporting fields to attempt to suppress mosquito populations within the urban open space environment.

"These areas will be signposted as per our usual advice to the public regarding the use of chemicals, so please obey any warnings and the instructions of Council staff and avoid areas being treated," they said in a Facebook post.

Health advice is to minimise your risk of being bitten by mosquitoes: if you can remove pooling water around your home you should do that, but for those in low-lying flooded areas it's a matter of protecting yourself.

"Don't go outside at dusk when the numbers are higher; wear long sleeves; and use mosquito repellent," Ms Stanley said.

But mosquitoes aren't the only nasty she's concerned about as Forbes deals with the aftermath of flooding.

With the weather finally warming up, Health is concerned about the potential for a resurgence in rodent numbers and the possibility that they'll carry leptospirosis.

"Leptosporosis can make people really sick: fever, headache, chills and vomiting - and we have seen an increase in our district earlier this year with the rodent population," Ms Stanley said.

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The disease is spread through rodents - through their urine and faeces - and it's just one of the reasons people cleaning up after flooding or wading through water should cover up and be vigilant about hygiene.

"The bacteria contaminates the environment, which is why the flooding is a concern, and then transmission to humans usually comes through cuts and abrasions," Ms Stanley said.

"We discourage people going into floodwaters, full stop, but just wading through water and mud people need to be really careful and if they've got any cuts and abrasions they need to ensure that they cover those."

Splashing your face with water out in the paddock is also an absolute no-no, she added.

If you do develop any of the symptoms of leptospirosis, Ms Stanley urges you to head to the GP and let them know that you have been exposed to mud or floodwater.

"There is treatment available, that's why it is important to get in early so treatment can occur," she said.

It's also important you seek medical advice if you sustain a cut or injury working in floodwater or cleaning up.

"If you do suffer a cut, you may need a tetanus booster, so just be aware of any injuries you may sustain and please go to your general practitioner if you experience a wound that's been exposed to floodwater," Ms Stanley said.

She also reminded people to be cautious returning home if you've had interruptions to power or water that might have impacted food safety, if there has been floodwater in your home or through septic systems or bores on properties.

More information on the NSW Health website.

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