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February 02, 2018

Public health advice, including how to stay safe in the aftermath of flooding

The following advice is issued by Canterbury and West Coast Community and Public Health and applies to areas of the West Coast and Canterbury that have been affected by Cyclone Fehi.

Contaminated flood waters 

  • Three Waters (Buller District Council) advises that they have disinfected any areas where there have been known sewage overflows.
  • Nevertheless, avoid contact with flood waters if you can and assume they will be contaminated by sewage.
    There is also is the danger of trauma from floating objects and hazards hidden below the surface. Until power lines have been fully restored there may be a heightened danger of electrocution.
  • If you do come into contact with flood waters, change out of any wet clothes and shoes and put them aside to be washed later. Wash skin that has come into contact with flood waters, and your hands as soon as you reasonably can - or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Further advice on managing safely post-flooding can be found here.

Drinking water

  • Three Waters also advise that they are confident that mains water supplies are safe, with Punakaiki the only exception currently.
    They will advise if that situation changes.
  • A boil water notice remains in place for Punakaiki and there is still the potential for new ones to be put in place. A boil water notice means you need to boil or treat all water from taps / tankers before drinking, brushing teeth or using in food preparation. 
  • Bringing water to a rolling boil is sufficient to kill bugs.
  • Water that is visibly clear can be made safe to drink by adding half a teaspoon of a standard (unscented) bleach such as Clorox or Janola to 2 litres of water.
  • If you don't have mains water and you think it has been affected by surface run-off, don't use it for drinking purposes. If it appears clear but you are still unsure, it can be made safe by boiling or adding bleach as above.

Other relevant health advice follows.

Food

  • If you have lost power at some stage, avoid opening your fridge and freezers unnecessarily. If frozen food has been defrosted but has been kept chilled, it should be used soon - as if it had been bought fresh.
  • Do not refreeze high risk items such as meat, fish and poultry. If you think these high risk items may have been at room temperature for two or more hours, do not eat them – if it doubt, throw it out.
  • Any food stuffs which were not stored in a waterproof container and anything in bottles and jars with crown caps that has been under flood water should be discarded.

More general health and wellbeing

  • Continue to check on neighbours and vulnerable people near where you live as long as the disruption caused by the weather lasts. Check they have supplies including their medications and share with them the advice on food storage and use above.
  • If you need to see a GP and have trouble getting there, phone them for advice. Even if they are closed your call will be answered by a trained registered nurse who can advise you on what to do. 
    In an emergency, always ring 111.
  • If you require essential prescription medications and your supply is running low, call your normal GP number for advice.

Stay ready and informed

ends

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