03 November 2018

With the arrival of spring and the warmer weather, NSW Health is reminding residents to avoid infection from nasty bacteria lurking in the backyard.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director of Communicable Diseases, said backyard activities such as gardening can increase the risk of infections including tetanus.

“Tetanus is a serious bacterial infection which attacks the nervous system, and is potentially fatal. There are only one or two cases of tetanus in NSW every year and fatality is rare in Australia, but globally up to 80 per cent of people who contract the infection will die from it.

“Older and unvaccinated people are especially vulnerable, which is why it’s important to ensure they are adequately vaccinated.”

The latest report from the Australian Immunisation Register shows that 94.7 per cent of children in NSW are fully protected against tetanus by five years of age, however data is not available to measure adult protection levels and many adults may require a booster.

NSW Health recommends adults 50 years and over to have a booster dose if they haven’t had one in the last ten years. People who received a primary course as adults should receive booster doses 10 and 20 years after the primary course.

Dr Sheppeard said people should also be aware of the risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease from common household potting mix.

“Each year we get between 30 and 40 Legionnaires’ disease cases of the type caused by potting mix and of these, around 70 per cent report using potting mix in their exposure period, Dr Sheppeard said.

“Always follow manufacturers’ warnings on potting mix labels, such as wearing gloves and a mask, and wet down the mix to reduce dust.”

Spring and early summer is also the time to protect against diseases such as Ross River and Barmah Forest virus, which are carried by mosquitoes, particularly in rural areas and bushy areas on the outskirts of Sydney.

“Even though NSW is not a tropical climate, residents should take precautions against mosquito and insect bites,” Dr Sheppeard said.