Queenslanders at risk as flood clean-up continues

As Queensland cleans up from the floods, those affected now face a hidden risk to their health from water-damaged, damp and mouldy buildings, according to an immunologist from the University of Western Sydney.

Connie Katelaris is Professor of Immunology and Allergy within the UWS School of Medicine and President of the Asian Pacific Association of Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology.

Professor Katelaris says damp homes are associated with respiratory problems including asthma, coughs, respiratory infections and upper airway problems.

“For the devastated communities returning home to clean up, it’s very important to restore a dry living environment as quickly as possible,” says Professor Katelaris.

“I would recommend asthmatics wear good-quality face masks while handling mouldy things, and that people who are immunosuppressed (for example, receiving chemotherapy for cancer) to stay out of the environment or wear proper respiratory protection.

“Where possible, infants and young children should not be continuously exposed to mouldy environments.”

Professor Katelaris says the experiences following Hurricane Katrina show it’s important for people to dry their houses as soon as possible.

“The clean-up from Hurricane Katrina was massive, taking many people months and years and exposing them to damp, mouldy environments,” she says.

“Many of those involved in restoration developed a chronic cough, which was dubbed the “Katrina Cough” and attributed to irritant phenomena.

“By taking the proper precautions, we should hopefully be able to minimise the number of people who are affected, giving them the best chance of rebuilding and recovering while in top health.”
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