CHO Alert: Health concerns related to Victorian bushfires

CHO Alert: Health concerns related to Victorian bushfires

03 January, 2020

Status: Active
Date issued: 3 January 2020
Issued by: Dr Brett Sutton, Chief Health Officer, Victoria
Issued to: Health professionals

Key messages

  • A State of Disaster has been declared as significant bushfires are burning across Victoria and impacting communities across the state.
  • The situation is rapidly changing so it’s important to keep checking VicEmergency for updates.
  • Air quality remains very poor to hazardous across East Gippsland and much of the north east of Victoria.
  • Hazardous air quality may lead to:
    • serious aggravation of health effects in people over 65, children 14 years and younger, pregnant women and those with existing heart or lung conditions.
    • serious increase in respiratory and other effects in everyone else and many people might have symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath.
  • Evacuations are underway, but everyone in an area heavily impacted by smoke, especially those in sensitive groups, should relocate where possible and safe to do so.
  • If people are unable to leave, stay inside, close windows and doors and reduce activity. If you must go outside, use a P2 face mask if available. (Click on link below for the full alert and read ‘More Information’ for detailed advice on fitting and use of masks).
  • If providing face masks, prioritise at-risk groups and health professionals working in heavily smoke-impacted areas and ensure instructions for correct fitting and use are provided.
  • Rainwater tanks can be contaminated by debris, ash, dead animals, aerial fire retardants and water-bombing. Bottled water should be used if there are concerns about the quality of the drinking water.
  • Remind patients to maintain good hygiene (using soap and water or antibacterial gel to wash hands) and practice food safety to avoid outbreaks of gastroenteritis and other diseases.
  • Fires of this significance can cause extreme stress so encourage self-care and use of support services for community and emergency responders.

Read the full alert: Health concerns related to Victorian bushfires
Authorised by the Victorian Government, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne.