After the flood - Public Health information and advice 

After a flood there are some basic public health measures that can be taken to minimise the risk to health.

The main public health concern is that flood waters may be contaminated.  However outbreaks of communicable disease are uncommon after floods.  These basic public health measures will help protect you and your family from illness.

Personal Hygiene:
The most important health measure is basic hygiene. Always wash your hands with soap and water:
• After handling articles contaminated with flood water or sewerage
• Before eating or preparing food, and before smoking
• After participating in flood clean up activities.

You do not need to use any special soaps or cleaners when washing yourself or your clothes. 

Do not allow children to play in flood-affected areas, until clean-up is complete. If children have been in flood-affected areas, make sure that they wash their hands well afterwards.

After working in a flood-affected area, remove boots before going inside, shower and wash affected clothes. Wash hands well before cooking.

Cuts and wounds:
If you have any cuts or wounds which were exposed to flood-affected waters, keep them as clean as possible by washing well with soap to prevent infection. Check with your GP, as you may need a tetanus booster, especially if the wound is deep or is a puncture wound. If a wound develops redness, swelling or oozing seek immediate medical attention.

If a “boil water” notice is in place in your area boil water for drinking and reboil water that has not been used within 24 hours.

If you have no power to boil water then purifying tablets or common house hold bleach can be added to ensure its safety. Add one teaspoon of household bleach per 10 litres of water, mix and leave for 30 minutes. Store covered in a clean container.

Boiled or purified water should be used for washing food that will not be cooked e.g. salad, fruit etc. For washing cutlery and crockery, wiping work surfaces and equipment, brushing teeth and other personal hygiene and cleaning water storage.

If you use bore water, pump the bore water to waste for 24 hours and then flush the pipe work and run for an hour after reconnecting. If the bore is under water do not pump. If the bore is connected to a tank disconnect the tank, then clean and disinfectant the tank if contamination has occurred.

Food safety:
Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water.
Discard readily perishable foods which have been in the refrigerator without power
Refrozen perishable foods are not safe to eat.

Do not swim or collect kaimoana, including watercress, from waterways as it is likely to be contaminated.

If in doubt, seek specific advice from an Environmental Health Officer at your local Council or the Public Health Unit phone 06 834 1815.