Christchurch Earthquake key public health messages – prepared by Community and Public Health – a division of Canterbury District Health Board
issued: 27 February 2011
People need to take the following advice to avoid getting sick with stomach bugs and other illnesses.
Boil drinking water
Boil all water from taps and tankers before drinking, brushing teeth, or washing or using in food preparation. Water needs to be brought to the boil. It does not need to be boiled for a period of time as previously advised.
Alternatively, water can be treated by adding household bleach to it. Use 5 drops of bleach to 1 litre of water or 1 teaspoon of bleach per 10 litres of water and leave for 30 minutes before drinking.
The City Council will advise when it is no longer necessary to boil or treat tap water.
Be careful with human waste
If you are disposing of human waste (faeces, poo, vomit etc) either:
- bury it in your garden; or
- wrap it well in paper or plastic and put it in your red bin for collection.
Wash your hands immediately after dealing with any human waste.
How to deal with dust and other air pollutants
Demolition material and silt can become very dry and dusty and become an irritant. If you are concerned about the level of dust and other pollutants in the air, wear an appropriate dust mask to protect your lungs. Masks are available from hardware stores and pharmacies.
Wash your hands regularly
Sanitize or wash hands after toileting, and before and after preparing food.
Cold water is sufficient for hand washing provided soap is used.
If you don’t have water, hand sanitizer is a good alternative. Hand sanitizer is available from official water tanker sites.
If you are unwell seek help
Anyone who is unwell with a minor injury or illness and needs medical assistance can call your GP or the Twenty-Four Hour Surgery. The majority of GPs in Christchurch are now open.
Dial 111 for emergency medical attention. The ambulance service and the Emergency Department at the Hospital are dealing with large numbers of patients, so should only be contacted in emergencies.
If you are sick, try to limit contact with other people, do not go to work and do not prepare food for anyone – especially if you are suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting.
Avoid contact with Sewage
People who have sewage contamination within their homes are advised to move to alternative accommodation.
Avoid contact with river, sea water, ponds, puddles and any other surface water, as it may be contaminated with sewage. Do not swim, fish or gather shellfish.
The authorities will inform the public when the ocean and rivers are safe for contact and normal use again.
Take care with food
Extreme care should be taken with refrigerated or defrosted frozen food – as it is will go bad faster than usual.
Get rid of food that is smelly, slimy, mouldy or discoloured.
Until power returns, purchase and consume food that does not require refrigeration – such as fruit, or tinned or packet foods. Once power has returned, do not refreeze defrosted foods.
Do not eat garden produce if the soil has been affected by liquefaction
Look after each other
Keep in touch with families, friends and neighbours and support each other.