Fears over Qld floods disease surge

Posted on: February 4th, 2019 by
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Medical officials are bracing for rampant disease in swamped Queensland, with filthy floodwaters harbouring sewage, dead animals and dangerous debris, as the town of Goondiwindi is evacuated.

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Dozens of towns have been inundated including large areas of Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city, in flooding across an area twice the size of Texas, or France and Germany combined.

More than 100,000 Brisbane homes were without power and fresh water supplies had been cut or compromised in some areas, while raw sewage spilled into waterways from submerged homes across the state of Queensland.

“We anticipate the number of patients with infections to swell as food, water and sanitation continue to be compromised,” the Australian Medical Association (AMA) warned.

“Infections may vary from ingestion varieties including gastroenteritis and parasitic infestations causing vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pains to systemic infections.”

Mosquito-borne diseases were also expected to surge as the insects multiply in the stagnant waters, and any cut exposed to the murky wet should be treated with antiseptic and closely monitored, AMA Queensland president Gino Pecoraro said.

“People should avoid wading in even shallow water as it may be contaminated. If you must enter shallow floodwaters wear solid boots for protection,” Pecoraro said, urging people to seek medical advice and a tetanus shot for more serious injuries.

Food spoiled due to the widespread power cuts was another crucial health risk, and Pecoraro said it was also vital to acknowledge the psychological trauma brought by the disaster and seek help.

“This catastrophic event will impact our health system for many months and potentially years to come,” he said.

“We anticipate the mounting pressure on local hospitals will be overwhelming.”

Goondiwindi evacuated

The local hospital and nursing home at Goondiwindi are being evacuated as the border town prepares for a record flood.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said many Goondiwindi residents may need to evacuate on Thursday night when the Macintyre River peaks.

“Evacuations are now being undertaken at the hospital and nursing home in Goondiwindi,” Ms Bligh told reporters on Thursday night.

“We have 61 patients between those two facilities who are being airlifted to Inglewood or Warwick.

“The local council at Goondiwindi has made evacuation centres on higher ground.”

She said the river was expected to peak at 10.85 metres.

“Goondiwindi has a levee bank of some 11 metres. The current predicted height is 10.85 metres, so we are talking about a very small margin of error.

“We are talking about a flood that is likely because of its size to stay at that level for more than 24 hours, so the structural integrity of the levee also has to be considered.

“The people of Goondiwindi would no doubt be wondering whether they’ll be the next to see raging floodwaters.

“We assure them everything that can be done to predict and to guarantee their safety is being done.”

Ms Bligh said it could take months before some Queenslanders can return to their flooded homes.

About 3000 people are staying at evacuation centres across Queensland, following floods that have ravaged the state.

Authorities are now burdened with the task of getting them home as quickly as possible, although Ms Bligh said it will be a long wait for some.

“For some people we acknowledge that is going to take months and months and months and you will need interim accommodation on a temporary basis,” she said.

The state government has ordered demountables that will be used to house families who have nowhere to go.

“They will be making their way into Queensland and some of the smaller towns, and that will be a short- to medium-term solution,” Ms Bligh said.

Ms Bligh could not say how many demountables have been requested, but said they’d been sourced from throughout the country.

Housing, feeding and looking after thousands of evacuees for an extended time was going to be a “huge effort” for authorities, she said.

But she urged Queenslanders to stop donating material goods, such as blankets and clothes, at evacuation centres or charity stores and bins, which have been piling up because there is no one to sort through them.

Ms Bligh could not say how many demountables have been requested, but said they’d been sourced from throughout the country.

Housing, feeding and looking after thousands of evacuees for an extended time was going to be a “huge effort” for authorities, she said.

But she urged Queenslanders to stop donating material goods, such as blankets and clothes, at evacuation centres or charity stores and bins, which have been piling up because there is no one to sort through them.

“I’m going to have to ask you to stop doing that because it’s starting to become a real problem,” Ms Bligh said.

“I know that you mean well, but if you could just hold back on that for a little while.”

Those wanting to help out are being asked to donate money instead.

Meanwhile, authorities have also urgently turned their attention to ensuring the Queensland school term starts on time.

Sixty schools across the state have been significantly damaged in the floods, along with seven TAFEs, 19 teacher houses in rural areas and 86 childcare centres that are not accessible.

“We are determined wherever possible to have school open on the normal day one of term this year,” Ms Bligh said.

“There may be a couple of schools where that may not be possible … but right now the race is on.”

Ms Bligh spent some of Thursday afternoon inspecting flooded streets near her Brisbane home, talking to locals and inspecting houses.

“Everybody’s in a bit of shock,” she said.

“I’ve recognised some of the houses of my children’s friends, I know these families, it’s very emotional out there.”

But she’s been heartened by the displays of good will.

“There’s a lot of love out there.”

With Queensland roads slowly being reopened, Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson reminded motorists to take care and be courteous.


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