One person is dead and another 10 are sick from flood-related illnesses in Townsville following a once-in-a-century monsoonal deluge.
The cause is melioidosis, which stems from floodwaters that are heavily contaminated with dirt and bacteria, Queensland Health’s Dr Julie Mudd says in a statement on Tuesday.
“Given the scale of the flooding we are expecting to see increasing numbers of a range of infections, not just melioidosis,” she said.
Melioidosis is an environmental bacteria picked up from the soil.
#BreakingNews The aftermath of the catastrophic #floods in #Townsville has claimed a life, following an outbreak of a #bacteria infection.
Dr Julie Mudd from Townsville's Public #Health Unit confirmed another 10 people were being treated for #melioidosis. pic.twitter.com/gxvVbRdEXB
— Brandi News Update (@brandilmelb) February 12, 2019
Dr Mudd said earlier that most of those people have ended up in intensive care.
“We expect these cases with every wet season,” Dr Mudd said.
“The wetter the season, the more cases we expect to get.
“It’s not spread from person to person and it’s something we see in people who have a vulnerability of their immune system.”
This includes people on medication, diabetics, people with chronic airways disease and the elderly.
Dr Mudd said the bacteria could be deadly for people lacking the immunity to fight it.
“People do get very sick so a lot of people with melioidosis will require ICU care,” she said.
“It is quite a severe illness in this form so usually people will have quite high fevers and be very unwell.”
She said anyone concerned should seek medical attention.
People cleaning up after the floods are advised to wear protective equipment, cover any wounds and protect their airways if working around mud.
Dr Mudd also said health workers were on the look-out for anyone with leptospirosis – another bacterial infection commonly caused by contaminated soil or water.
But she said so far, no one had been diagnosed with the condition.
The clean-up continues in earnest across flood-affected Townsville suburbs, aided by local soldiers who are picking up flood debris and taking it away to the tip.
The Queensland Fire and Emergency Service said SES volunteers from across the state volunteered to travel to Townsville to help with the clean-up, as well as roof repairs.