Health Alerts & Hot Topics

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Health Advice: Avoid contaminated floodwater

Dated: April 4, 2017

The North Coast Public Health Unit is urging Northern Rivers residents and visitors to avoid unnecessary contact with floodwater.

Greg Bell, Acting Director Public Health, said it is important that people treat all floodwater as potentially contaminated. Mr Bell advised people that they should not swim or play in floodwater because of the dangers of contacting diluted sewage, bacteria, chemicals and physical hazards that may be present. “While the risk of infection from contact with floodwater is generally low, it is important to stay away from flood-affected areas and avoid unnecessary contact with mud and floodwaters.” If you cut yourself on something that has been contaminated with floodwater, check with your GP about your tetanus vaccination.

To view the full media release, click here.  To view the Staying Health After Floods Advice – click here.

Hints for staying healthy during floods and while cleaning up:

  • Wear gloves and suitable foot wear when removing mud or debris from homes or yards.
  • Yards can be raked to remove debris and if necessary, hosed down.
  • Don’t try to check electrical appliances and other equipment yourself, seek professional help.
  • Discard any tinned food that has no labels, as well as perishable food that has been out of refrigeration for more than 4hours. If freezer door is kept shut, frozen food will not spoil for at least 24 hours.
  • Have septic tanks or pipes professionally inspected or serviced if you suspect damage.
  • Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, use roll-on insect repellent on exposed skin and apply every few hours.
  • Avoid creating mosquito breeding sites in your yard by emptying out pot plant bases and removing all water-holding rubbish.
  • When cleaning up, consider your personal health, drink plenty of clear fluids, do not wait until you are thirsty. Take breaks when you can, watch out for heat stress.

For more information please visit the following link on the NSW Health website:



Dated: February 14, 2017

Mid North Coast residents are being warned to avoid handling or touching dead flying foxes or microbats, with an increase in the numbers of dead flying foxes being found in or around trees following the recent extreme heat.  Members of the community should not handle dead flying foxes or microbats unless they have been trained, vaccinated against rabies and use the proper protective equipment.  For more information regarding safely handling flying foxes, visit the NSW Health website.



Dated: February 6, 2017

The NSW Government will fund a new school-based meningococcal vaccination program for all Year 11 and 12 students to combat the rise in the W strain of this potentially fatal disease.

The NSW Meningococcal W Response Program will target 17 and 18 year olds this year, as immunisation experts advise that this age group is particularly at risk because of their physical closeness with peers (e.g. kissing, coughing, sneezing).  The program will start in Term Two, and be expanded to cover other upper high school students in subsequent years. The program will start in Term Two, and be expanded to cover other upper high school students in subsequent years.

To read the full media release click here.   For further information in relation to Meningococcal W, please click here.



Dated: January 31, 2017

With severe to extreme heat wave conditions again forecast across the north coast for the coming week, people are reminded to take the risk of heat-related illness seriously.  The following simple precautions will help minimise the risk of health-related illness:

  • Drink plenty of water and remember to carry some with you when you’re out and about;
  • Avoid alcoholic, hot or sugary drinks;
  • Plan your day around the heat. Stay indoors between 11am and 5pm and minimise physical activity;
  • Keep the sun out of your house by shading windows with an awning, shade-cloth or plants. Shutting curtains will also help;
  • Keep windows closed during the day. Open them when it cools down at night or in the early morning;
  • If you have an air-conditioner, make sure it’s working;
  • If you don’t have an air-conditioner, try to spend some time in an air-conditioned place like a shopping centre, library or cinema; and
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibres like cotton

More information about heat-health, including downloadable advice in several languages, can be found on the NSW Health website:



Dated: December 21, 2016

The North Coast Public Health Unit has been notified of a case of measles in a resident of Tweed Heads and anticipates that other cases may emerge over coming days.

Anyone in the Tweed Heads-Coolangatta area who is not protected against measles should be alert for symptoms, particularly those who were at:

  • South Tweed Bowling Club on Sunday 4th December 2016
  • Gold Coast After-hours Doctor, Palm Beach on Monday 5th or Tuesday 6th December or
  • The Tweed Hospital Emergency Department on Friday 9th December or Sunday 11th December.

Anyone with symptoms of measles should phone their General Practitioner in advance before arriving for assessment to ensure they can be isolated from other patients.

For more information on measles please go to NSW Ministry of Health website. If you are concerned you may be at risk of measles, please phone the North Coast Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055.


Ebolavirus Disease

The largest outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) ever reported is continuing in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa. A total of 9216 cases of EVD have been reported in seven affected countries (Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the United States of America) up to the end of 14 October.

Ebola virus disease is a serious infection that is spread through close contact with people who are sick with the infection, or with their blood or other body fluids, or with infected animals. At present there is no Ebola in Australia, so there is no risk of catching the infection here. People who have travelled or worked in affected countries in West Africa may have been exposed to Ebola.

For further information, please click on the relevant links below.

For Travellers & the Community, click here.

For General Practitioners, click here.

For NSW hospitals and laboratories, click here. A key resource for Emergency Departments to assess returned travellers for the possibility of EVD is available here.

For any further information, please see the NSW Ministry of health website.


Strengthening vaccination requirements for Child Care Centres and Primary Schools from 1 January 2014

The Public Health Amendment (Vaccination of Children Attending Child Care Facilities) Act 2013 will come into effect from 1st January 2014.

Prior to enrolling in child care proof of a child’s vaccination status must be provided. This means that child care centres must have documented evidence that children are up to date with their vaccinations, or that they are on a recognised catch-up schedule, or that they have a medical contraindication to vaccination, or their parents have a conscientious objection to vaccination, before enrolling a child.

These changes will work with other new initiatives in NSW to improve the timeliness of vaccine coverage in children, and prevent outbreaks of serious vaccine preventable diseases.

For further information for Child Care Centres, Primary Schools and Parents is available by clicking here.


Smoke-Free Legislation

The Tobacco Legislation Amendment Act 2012 amends the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 and bans smoking in the following outdoor public places from 7 January 2013:

  • Within 10 metres of children’s play equipment in outdoor public spaces;
  • Swimming pool complexes;
  • Spectator areas at sports grounds or other recreational areas during organised sporting events;
  • Railway platforms, light rail stops, light rail stations, bus stops, taxi ranks and ferry wharves;
  • Within 4 metres of a pedestrian access point to a public building; and
  • From 2015, in commercial outdoor dining areas.

For further information see the NSW Ministry of Health internet site by clicking here.


Public Health Act 2010 and the Public Health Regulation 2012

The Public Health Act 2010 and the Public Health Regulation 2012 commenced on 1 September. The objectives of the Public Health Act are to:

  • Protect and promote public health
  • Control the risk to public health
  • Promote the control of infectious diseases
  • Prevent the spread of infectious diseases
  • Recognise the role of local governments in protecting public health

The Act carries over many of the provisions in the Public Health Act 1991 while also including a range of new provisions.

The Public Health Regulation 2012 was approved in July 2012 and commenced, along with the Public Health Act 2010, on 1 September2012. The objectives of the Regulation are to support the smooth operation of the Public Health Act 2010.

The Regulation makes provision for:

  • installation, operating and maintenance requirements for air-conditioning systems and other regulated systems
  • operating requirements for public swimming pools and spa pools
  • the issuing of orders to temporarily close down public swimming pools or spa pools, or to take disinfection action, where there is a risk to public health
  • requirements for the carrying out of skin penetration procedures and for the premises where such procedures are carried out
  • quality assurance programs for suppliers of drinking water
  • disease control measures
  • the facilities and procedures for the handling of bodies of deceased persons, exhumations, cremations and other matters relating to the disposal of bodies
  • the code of conduct for certain health practitioners,
  • fees payable in relation to improvement notices, prohibition orders and inspection of premises
  • notification and record-keeping requirements
  • penalty notice offences

Information sheets are available to support stakeholders to recognise and comply with their responsibilities under the Regulation. Please click here to view them.


Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Whooping cough is a highly infectious bacterial disease that causes bouts of coughing and can be life-threatening in babies. Whooping cough is spread easily by coughing, and babies are at risk of severe illness if infected. Older children and adults can often get whooping cough too and they can pass the infection on to babies.

The best ways to protect your baby from whooping cough are:

  • Vaccinate your baby on time. Your baby will have the best protection after he or she has received all 3 dosese of whooping cough vaccine (the first dose can be given as early as 6 weeks of age; the second dose should be given at 4 months of age; the third dose should be given at 6 months of age).
  • All children in your household should be up to date with their whooping cough vaccines. Children require boosters at 3½ years of age and in high school.
  • Keep your baby away from anyone with a cough.
  • Anyone with symptoms of whooping cough should see their doctor for diagnosis and treatment

For information for GPs in NSW about free whooping cough vaccine for new mothers click here.

For further information about whooping cough, please click here to see the Pertussis (Whooping Cough) NSW Health factsheet or phone your nearest Public Health Unit on:

1300 066 055 during business hours and ask to speak to a Public Health Officer.

NSW Ministry of Health have recently launced a new information site in relation to whooping cough. There you will find extensive information about how to identify the disease – protect your children – prevent the spread. To view the website, please click here.