The recent flooding events have impacted many areas and flooded homes, businesses and farms, as well as cutting off access to some areas leading to people being isolated. The floodwater can make it harder to stay healthy and safe, but there is help, further information and advice available. You can stay safe, healthy and well in these situations, helping you to recover faster and minimise the impacts on your lifestyle and work by being aware.
When you’re in floodwater, do you know what lies underneath?
Floodwater is often murky, which makes it hard to see and avoid potential hazards like sharp objects, holes, and uneven surfaces. This means walking or travelling through floodwaters can be dangerous as it places you at an increased risk of injury or illness.
You should never walk in or enter floodwaters, especially in you’re in a vehicle and even if you think it’s safe. Stay up to date on the Vic Emergency website VicEmergency website https://emergency.vic.gov.au/respond/
Call the Flood Recovery Hotline, 1800 560 760, if you require help or assistance with:
- navigating available supports
- temporary accommodation
- mental health and wellbeing support
The recovery hotline is open from 7:30am-7:30pm every day.
What’s in the water? Recent flooding and storms can mean waterways and floodwaters become contaminated by overflowing sewerage or septic systems, farm or industrial waste and other chemicals. Bacteria found in floodwater can make you sick or cause infections.
Always avoid swimming or entering floodwaters or rivers and lakes as this can make you sick and cause gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, or ear, nose and throat infections. You should also keep children and pets out of floodwater.
If you have had contact with floodwater, soil, or with an item that’s touched floodwater, wash your hands with soap and running water, and disinfect and clean surfaces where possible. If you start to feel sick – seek advice from your GP.
Even once the floodwaters are gone, the damp can still affect your home and belongings. Mould likes to grow in wet or moist areas like ceilings, carpets and wood, or other places that can’t dry out properly.
Mould growing in your home can damage your health, causing blocked noses, sneezing, coughing, wheezing or respiratory infections; it can also make allergies and asthma worse.
Some people are more likely to be affected or become sick than others, those who are young or have existing medical conditions are particularly susceptible.
For more information, as well as what to do if you find mould and how to get rid of it, go to www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/mould-and-your-health.
Do you rely on medication to treat a medical condition or to stay healthy?
It’s important to make sure you continue taking regular medications to stay healthy, especially during difficult or stressful times like the recent floods. If you don’t continue regular treatment or forget, you run the risk of your condition becoming worse and you may need emergency treatment.
If you’re finding it difficult to get your regular medication during the floods, contact your local GP or pharmacy. You can also contact Health Direct on 1800 022 222 for advice.
Mosquitos love stagnant floodwater, as it gives them a perfect breeding ground. They can also carry diseases that may pass on to people through their bites, such as Japanese Encephalitis and Ross River Virus.
To help control mosquitos around your home, you can:
- Remove stagnant water from around your home when it is possible
- Wear long and loose-fitting clothes, as insects can bite through tight fitting ones
- Use insect repellents on exposed skin that have picaridin or DEET in them
For more information on preventing mosquito bites and the diseases they can carry, go to www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/campaigns/beat-the-bite.
In emergencies, like in the recent floods, it is normal to experience many types of physical, mental, emotional, and behavioural reactions.
Make sure you look after yourself and reach out to friends, family, or neighbours so you can talk to and support each other. It can be helpful to know people are thinking of you.
Older people, isolated people, those with a pre-existing mental illness or a history of trauma and those who have lost someone may need extra support in an emergency.
There are also mental health and wellbeing hubs across Victoria providing free support for those not requiring emergency or crisis support www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/mental-health-and-wellbeing-hubs or contact Partners in Wellbeing on 1300 375 330.
If you’re worried about your mental health or someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back service on 1300 659 467.
Brought to you by the GVH Public Health Unit.