Personal hygiene is critical. Illnesses like gastroenteritis (stomach bugs) can spread through contact with contaminated surfaces.
- Always wash your hands after handling debris before handling food.
- Be sure to wear sturdy boots and rubber or leather gloves.
- Mosquitos can also breed rapidly and become a nuisance – cover skin with sleeves and pants, and use an insect repellent.
Children and elderly people are particularly at risk from dehydration. Ensure they drink plenty of water.
Treating open wounds
If you have an open cut or sore that has been exposed to floodwater:
- Keep it as clean as possible by washing with soap and covering with a plaster.
- Contact a doctor for further treatment, like a tetanus shot.
- If redness, swelling or discharge occurs, seek immediate medical attention.
To help protect children:
- Do not let children play in silt or water that is lying around.
- Wash their hands frequently and always before meals.
- Do not let them play with flood-damaged toys until they have been disinfected.
You can clean all toys that have come into contact with floodwater by:
- Soaking in a solution of 1.5 cups of household bleach in 10 litres of water (a household bucket) for two minutes. Rinse in clean water.
- Let toys air dry after cleaning.
Dealing with contaminated food supplies
- Any food that has come into direct contact with floodwater.
- Any food that has an unusual odour, colour or texture.
- Canned food if the can is open, bulging or damaged.
- Food containers with screw caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soft drink bottles), twist caps, flip-top lids and home canned foods.
Greater Western Water says the water is safe to drink. But use bottled, boiled or disinfected water if it is dirty or cloudy; and call a plumber.
Boil water by:
- Keeping it at a rolling boil for one minute to make sure bacteria is killed.
- If you suspect the water may be contaminated with chemicals – only used bottled water.
- Adding ¾ of a teaspoon (4 ml) of non-scented chlorine bleach into a clean household bucket containing 10 litres of water.
- Stir the water well, and let it stand for 30 minutes before using.
- Use only pre-prepared canned baby food (that is not bulging or damaged)
- Make up powdered formulas with bottled water
Where to get help
- State Emergency Service (SES): 132 500
- Nurse-on-call: 1300 60 60 24 (any time, 24/7)
- Your insurance company
- Victorian Department of Health: 1300 650 172
Keep an eye out for animals
Animals and rodents
Snakes and other animals like rats, mice and spiders can lose their home during floods, and may look for shelter inside houses, sheds and other buildings. When returning to a flood-affected area remember to take care.
Wear sturdy work boots, gloves, and long pants to protect your legs when cleaning up, and watch where you place your hands and feet when removing or cleaning up debris.
If you find a snake, do not panic. Seek advice from someone who knows how to safely remove the snake or visit the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning website or phone 136 186 for assistance. If you are bitten by a snake seek immediate medical attention by calling triple zero (000).
Because there is always a lot of stagnant water lying around after any flood event, there are likely to also be more mosquitos around. Follow a few simple steps when outdoors to reduce your risk of being bitten and becoming unwell:
- cover up and wear long, loose-fitting clothing as mosquitos can bit through tight clothing
- use mosquito nets or insect screens, and repellents
- use fly spray, mosquito coils or plug-in repellent where you gather to sit or eat
Dealing with mould
After water enters your home, it only takes mould spores 48 hours to grow, due to consistent moisture in the air.
If you find signs of mould and mildew, brush off items outdoors to prevent spores spreading inside. Vacuum floors, ceilings and walls to remove mildew, then wash with disinfectant.
Wear a mask to prevent breathing in spores.