Six months after significant flooding events hit Townsville, residents that are battling construction and insurance negotiations are also having to deal with an unprecedented problem of mould growing in residences.
Residents who were evacuated because their homes had been inundated were later advised to move back in and dry out the premises with industrial dryers, open windows and air conditioners, according to one resident.
The resident who used a pseudonym, explained that she was particularly susceptible to infectious diseases because of an auto-immune condition. She spent six weeks in hospital after she developed aspergillosis — a fungal infection of the lungs caused by mould.
She was definitely not the only resident affected: Townsville Public Health Unit completed an assessment of the impact the floods had on the health of local residents and reported 21 cases of melioidosis following the floods, six cases of leptospirosis infection and an increase in gastroenteritis and cryptosporidium attributable to the event.
Acting director Dr Julie Mudd said mould-related illnesses were not reported to the Public Health Unit so no data was available on those conditions.
An investigative report conducted by the ABC provided an alternate perspective: that the floods and the resulting mould did indeed affect local residents’ health. As explained in an interview with the ABC, Perth-Based mycologist Heike Neumeister-Kemp ‘said she had never seen mould as “extreme” as what she has observed in Townsville’.
“We had a lot of people who had no immuno-suppression and who had no previous issues and they got really, really sick from mould exposure because the amount of mould they were exposed to was just extremely high.”
‘Dr Kemp said mould can be as damaging to human health as asbestos and she would like to see legislation introduced around mould testing and remediation similar to Australia’s asbestos laws.’
Residents have reported that insurance companies have been active in addressing mould and other issues related to the floods.
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