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Infections from floodwater rise in Victoria as mould, gastro and mozzies wreak havoc


Doctors and pharmacists are warning of a spike in skin infections and mosquito-borne diseases in towns where people are having to wade through stagnant and rancid floodwater on a daily basis.

At Rochester, in central Victoria, pharmacist Brett Phillips said more and more patients were presenting with skin infections and dermatitis requiring medication after open sores were exposed to contaminated water.

“Floodwater is awful stuff — it’s got germs and it is full of chemicals,” he said.

“We’ve had people running around for days on end in gumboots with their feet in a terrible mess and they’ve become infected.

“The town of Rochester is going to be down for some time — it is going to be a long hard battle for everyone.”

Echuca pharmacist Kathy Kostoglou said many of her patients were presenting with blisters and wounds on their feet from the constant rubbing from wet boots, as well as sore backs and necks.

“They’re exhausted,” she said.

“It’s in their faces, their eyes, their speech.

“The anticipation has caused people a lot of anxiety … people are not sleeping, so they want to have sleep aid.

“I’m guessing chiropractors are going to have a huge job coming up — everybody will be exhausted physically and mentally.”

Mould, gastro and mozzies

Warm, humid weather in central Victoria and the north-east has also exacerbated the growth of mould within homes.

“Obviously mould can lead to a lot of different skin problems, respiratory difficulties,” Loddon Mallee health unit director Bruce Bolam said.

He said extensive mould should be cleaned with household bleach and urged people to seek help if required.

“It’s important to get proper commercial advice on how to clean that out particularly if it gets in air conditioning systems,” Dr Bolam said.

“We strongly recommend people try to minimise contact with floodwater, wear boots, gloves, and in these situations good old soap and water is your friend.

“We’ve all got used to using hand sanitiser, but it is ineffective against many of the bugs that cause gastro .

“So soap and water is particularly important for anybody working or living in flood-affected communities.”

Dr Bolam said significant outbreaks of gastroenteritis were also likely.

“For food that is spoilt, just destroy it,” he said.

“If your fridge has been damaged, the safest thing to do … will be to just bin it.”

Rochester resident Stephen Harris has mould growing on every wall of his house.

He says he is on medication after suffering a cut to his arm during the flood clean-up.

“I have 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’ve had to get special medication from the doctor to avoid infection.

“And mosquitoes are in plague proportions here at the moment.”

‘Eating us alive’

Doctors and pharmacists were also warning people in flooded towns to keep up their asthma treatment.

Dr Bolam said maintaining COVID-safe protocols was also vital for people who had been displaced from their flood-damaged homes and were sleeping in large groups at relief centres.

This morning Rochester residents queued for free vaccinations against the mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis virus, though some missed out 

With so much stagnant water laying around, residents said mosquitoes were “breeding out of control” and “eating us alive”.

Nurse Melissa Seelenmeyer said people should do everything they could to avoid catching 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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