Australia steels for disease surge after floods

Australian medical officials braced on Thursday for rampant disease in the country’s swamped north-east, with filthy floodwaters harbouring sewage, dead animals and dangerous debris.

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.”

‘Catastrophic event’
Mosquito-borne diseases were also expected to surge as the insects multiply in the stagnant waters, and any cut exposed to the murky water 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.”—Sapa-AFP

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