23 January 2015

​NSW Health has warned people to be mindful of the dangers of food poisoning and mosquito-borne diseases at Australia Day celebrations this weekend.

Director of Communicable Diseases Dr Vicky Sheppeard said at Australia Day BBQs or picnics this weekend, people should avoid eating or serving up food which has been sitting in the heat for too long.

“If not prepared or stored correctly, popular Australia Day foods such as cold meats, cheese and seafood, can easily become dangerous to your health, and with a little care, it is relatively simple to avoid,” said Dr Sheppeard.”

“Avoid storing food outside in the heat for any longer than two hours, ensure Eskies or coolers have plenty of ice or ice packs and don’t keep your esky in a hot car for longer than necessary as it can increase the risk of food deteriorating.”

Dr Sheppeard said doctors and hospitals experience a significant spike in the number of people suffering foodborne illnesses at this time of year.

“Reports of foodborne illness, such as salmonella, increase as the temperature does, because bacteria can multiply more quickly in warm to hot temperatures which can lead to food poisoning.

“The latest NSW Health data shows there were 140 notifications of salmonellosis last week across NSW.

“Health Protection NSW and Local Health District public health units (PHUs) have been investigating five clusters of salmonellosis.

“Food poisoning can be very serious for the elderly, young children and pregnant women and anyone in poor health.”

NSW Health is also reminding people to guard against mosquito-borne diseases while they’re outdoors over the Australia Day long weekend.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard said the incidence of Ross River and Barmah Forest virus infections increases greatly during summer, due to greater mosquito activity and more people spending time in bushy, coastal and rural areas across the state.

“These viruses can cause unpleasant symptoms including, rash, fever, sore and swollen joints and tiredness,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“There is no specific treatment for these viruses. Symptoms usually last a few weeks, but some people may experience more debilitating symptoms for longer.

“The best way to avoid being sick is to avoid being bitten.”

Ways to avoid mosquito bites include:

  • Avoid being outside, unprotected, when mosquitoes are common including dawn and dusk. When outside cover up as much as possible with light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and covered footwear.
  • Apply mosquito repellent regularly to exposed areas (as directed on the container). Repellents containing Diethyltoluamide (DEET) or Picaridin are best.
  • Don’t use repellents on the skin of children under the age of three months. Instead use physical barriers such as netting on prams, cots and play areas for babies.
  • Eradicate mosquito breeding sites around the home by tipping out or covering any water holding containers.
  • Use flyscreens on windows and doors of houses and keep them in good order.
  • When camping, use flyscreens, or sleep under mosquito nets.