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Cyclone Gabrielle - Health, Care and Wellbeing

Health Advice

Risk of Gastroenteritis - diarrhoea and vomiting

There are gastro symptoms presenting in the community which is likely due to contaminated flood waters including the residual silt on the ground. For information on how to stay well and maintain hygiene under a Boil Water Notice visit -

It's imperative that you continue to boil water in Waipawa, Otāne and Waipukurau.



Flood waters have deposited large quantities of silt around Hawke’s Bay.

When the silt dries the surface layer can become airborne when disturbed by wind, vehicles or clean-up activities.

Airborne dust can affect people’s health and cause eye irritations, a cough, exacerbate asthma or lead to other respiratory problems. Silt may also contain other toxic substances.

If practical, remove silt deposits as quickly as possible and take the following precautions:

  • If possible, stay indoors when dust levels are high.
  • Avoid exercising in the dust.
  • If possible, reduce vehicle numbers and speeds (10-15 km/hr) over silt-laden surfaces, to reduce dust generation and subsequent exposure.

Personal safety while cleaning up
  • Wear rubber gloves, sturdy footwear, long-sleeved top and trousers
  • Wear a face mask (such as a blue surgical mask used to protect against COVID-19)
  • Cover any cuts and grazes you may have to avoid them becoming infected
  • Ensure you have a shovel to remove any contaminated material

Te Whatu Ora have produced a helpful information sheet on returning home after a flood, which you can access here.


Food Safety

Contaminated food

Floodwater can carry bacteria that can contaminate food.

  • Throw away all food and drinking water that has come in contact with floodwater, including things stored in containers. It is impossible to know if containers have been damaged and the seals compromised.
  • Do not eat garden produce if the soil has been flooded. Clean up and remove debris and sprinkle gardens with lime.
    Do not eat shellfish from the river mouth or harbour after a flood.
  • Follow the boil water notice instructions.
Preparing and making food

Maintaining hygiene around food preparation and cooking is really important, as surfaces and utensils may have been contaminated during the flood.

  • Always wash and dry your hands before preparing food – if water is in short supply, keep some in a bowl with disinfectant.
  • Ensure all kitchen utensils and food preparation surfaces are clean before use. Rinse thoroughly in safe water, then disinfect by immersing for 1 minute in a solution of 500 ml (about 2 cups) of plain, unperfumed household bleach in 10 litres of water. Rinse again in safe water. Alternatively, boil all utensils for 1 minute and let cool.
  • Decontaminate any surfaces that may have come into contact with floodwater.
  • Cook food thoroughly.
  • Cover all food with plastic wrap or store in waterproof containers.
  • Rubbish containing food scraps must be protected from flies and rats by wrapping the scraps or putting them in a sealed container.

Food safety after a flood | Ministry of Health website

Food safety in natural disasters | Ministry of Primary Industries website



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