Let the fish bite - not the mossies - Tips for a healthy and happy Easter

19 April 2011

Territorians and visitors are being urged to put their health first during the upcoming Easter holiday period, a time when many people will go fishing and camping or spend time relaxing outdoors.

Mosquito virus awareness and food safety are two of the key health messages being promoted by the Department this holiday season.

"Don't become mossie bait when you go bush or into the garden," warned Centre for Disease Control Director Dr Vicki Krause, repeating recent warnings for residents and visitors to the NT to cover up and protect themselves for the next three months against mosquito bites.

"A few mossie bites might seem trivial but the consequences of mosquito borne diseases such as Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus, Kunjin Virus, Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus can be profound, even fatal, and long-lasting," Dr Krause said.  

"For this reason, personal mosquito protection should be an essential part of everyone's fishing and camping equipment.

"Even if you're not going bush, it is important to use insect repellant and avoid being outdoors around dusk and at night, near rivers and areas of dense vegetation, as well as other areas of high mosquito activity."

Dr Krause said the danger period extends until June.

"The weather forecasts look good and many people are likely to be heading off to enjoy the great Territory outdoors. It's important to use mosquito proof accommodation and camping facilities at night, plus devices such as mosquito lanterns or insecticide pads or coils in exposed situations such as patios or verandahs.

"It is also advisable to wear protective light-coloured clothing with long sleeves, long trousers, and ankle protection with socks, between dusk and dawn in areas where mosquito bites are likely. And please ensure children are adequately protected against mosquito bites."

Further health advice on mosquitoes is available at -

http://health.nt.gov.au/library/scripts/objectifyMedia.aspx?file=pdf/45/02.pdf&siteID=1&str_title=Mosquitoes.pdf

Territorians hitting the road during the break are also being urged to protect their health by making food safety a priority.

 "With an estimated one in five cases of food poisoning in the NT due to poor hygiene and food handling and storage problems, it is vital to guard against getting sick from spoiled food," said the Department's Director of Environmental Health, Xavier Schobben.

"The simple message is that food needs to be stored and transported appropriately, handled with care and cooked thoroughly.

"Food poisoning can range in severity from minor stomach upsets to serious illness requiring hospital treatment. Common symptoms of food poisoning can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea - not something you need over the holiday.

"Good food handling and personal hygiene practices are harder to observe when you're away from home. At this time of year many people head off camping and hiking, and a major risk is to travel long distances with inadequate food storage facilities in the car.

"Storing food at proper temperatures is crucial, especially in our climate. Bacteria can multiply very quickly when the temperature of foods is in the danger zone between 5 °C and 60 °C," Mr Schobben added.

"Before organising your Easter food supplies, make sure there is enough room in the fridge or esky to cool the food at 5 °C. or less. Remember that soft drinks and alcohol, pickles, jams and other acidic condiments don't need refrigeration to remain safe.

 "Take care to follow good hygiene practices  like washing your hands after blowing your nose, or using the toilet, and before and after handling food, If you are camping and don't have a wash hand basin use hand wipes and anti-bacterial hand gels.

"Be sure to use clean cooking equipment and utensils. You're at greater risk of food poisoning when people join you for meals and you're cooking up big batches of food. Don't rush things - take time to ensure you're working safely. If you have a lot of leftovers, don't overfill the fridge as this can stop the food cooling properly."

"Have a happy and healthy Easter break and use these food safety tips when travelling:

  • Keep your vehicle clean and protect food from contamination by covering it in a sealed container.
  • If you don't have a fridge, use containers with insulation - such as Eskys with ice bricks - for potentially hazardous foods including meat, seafood and dairy products
  • Store raw meat, poultry and seafood at the bottom of the fridge or Esky and ensure juices don't drip on to other foods

Media Contact: Robin Osborne, Media Director, 899 92886 or 0488 692 781