Fact sheets

ACT Health has produced these fact sheets on various health matters for the public.


Communicable disease information


For more information on communicable diseases, please see the fact sheets below or contact the Communicable Disease Control Section on 02 6205 2155.


Anthrax is an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax is a very rare but serious and life-threatening disease in humans.

Anthrax Fact Sheet


In Australia, Campylobacter is considered the most common cause of bacterial gastroenteritis and is frequently associated with the handling and consumption of contaminated chicken meat.

Campylobacter Fact Sheet (October 2018)


Chickenpox is a highly contagious viral illness caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Most children experience a relatively mild illness, but in adults and immunosuppressed people chickenpox can be severe.

Chickenpox Fact Sheet (May 2018)


Cryptosporidium is a gastrointestinal infection caused by a parasite called Cryptosporidium.  Symptoms usually include watery diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

Cryptosporidiosis fact sheet

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a serious disease caused by the Ebola virus. There are several strains of the virus. EVD was previously called Ebola haemorrhagic fever.

Ebola Virus Disease (June 2016)


Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmissible infection spread by having unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex (sex without a condom) with a person who is infected.

Gonorrhoea Fact Sheet (April 2018)

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A occurs worldwide but is more common in developing countries. Most people get hepatitis A directly from an infected person.  Hepatitis A is spread via the faecal-oral route.

Hepatitis A Fact Sheet (October 2018)

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B is found in the blood and body fluids of people with the virus.

Hepatitis B Fact Sheet (October 2017)

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus.  Hepatitis C is found in the blood of people with the virus.

Hepatitis C Fact Sheet (October 2017)

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis E virus. Cases in Australia are most often associated with recent travel to endemic countries such as North Africa, the Middle East, and many parts of central and south-east Asia. Hepatitis E is spread via the faecal-oral route.

Hepatitis E Fact Sheet (October 2018)


Influenza, more commonly known as 'flu', is a highly contagious viral respiratory illness that can affect people of all ages.

Influenza (Flu) Fact Sheet

Immunisation each year is recommended to reduce the risk of catching the flu.


Annual Seasonal Influenza Vaccine

For more information about influenza infection or vaccination, please see our Winter wellbeing and flu page.

Invasive Pneumococcal Disease

Invasive Pneumococcal Disease is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Types of 'invasive' pneumococcal disease (IPD) include:

  • meningitis (infection of the membranes around the brain)
  • pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and;
  • bacteraemia (infection of the blood)

Invasive Pneumococcal Disease Fact Sheet (September 2015)


Listeriosis is an infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is commonly found in soil, water, sewage and the intestinal tracts of animals. Listeriosis can be caused by contact with these sources or eating contaminated foods.

Listeriosis Fact Sheet (October 2018)


Malaria is a parasitic disease transmitted between humans by infected mosquitoes. Malaria is an infection of the red blood cells, causing recurring fever with sudden onset.

Malaria Fact Sheet (October 2018)


Measles is a serious and highly contagious viral illness that is caused by the measles virus. Measles is not common in Australia because of high levels of immunisation.

Measles information sheet (August 2018)

Measles: Information for Contacts

Measles contacts are people who shared the same air as someone while they were infectious with measles (for example, being in the same room as someone with measles).  The following fact sheet provides information to people who may have been exposed to measles.

Measles - Information for Contacts (September 2018)


Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis (also known as meningococcus). Meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis (infection of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord) and/or bacteraemia (infection of the blood). These are both severe infections that may lead to death.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease may include headache and neck stiffness, joint pain, nausea and vomiting, lethargy, high temperature and a rash. Severe disease may develop within a few hours.

Early treatment of meningococcal disease is essential and could be life-saving. People should seek urgent medical assistance if symptoms occur, or call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 (24 hours) for advice.

For more information about meningococcal disease, please see the fact sheet below, contact your general practitioner or phone the Communicable Disease Control Section on 02 6205 2155.

Meningococcal Fact Sheet (January 2018)

Information for close contacts who require clearance antibiotics

If you have been in close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with meningococcal disease, you may require clearance antibiotics.

Meningococcal Information for close contacts (October 2015)

Outbreak Management - Information for Bus Drivers

This information is to assist bus drivers who are involved in the transportation of infectious or potentially infectious people during an outbreak.

Outbreak Management - Information for Bus Drivers


Rifampicin is one type of antibiotic which is sometimes given to people who have been in close contact with a person who has meningococcal disease.

Rifampicin Fact Sheet (September 2015)


Ciprofloxacin is another antibiotic which is sometimes given to people who have been in close contact with a person who has a meningococcal infection.

Ciprofloxacin Fact Sheet (August 2018) 


Mumps is an infectious disease caused by the mumps virus. Though once a very common infection in children, high childhood immunisation rates in Australia have resulted in a dramatic reduction in rates of mumps infection and it is now not very common.

Mumps Information Sheet (October 2015)

Norovirus Gastroenteritis

Norovirus is a very common viral infection that causes gastroenteritis. It is highly contagious and often causes outbreaks, particularly in aged care facilities, child care centres, schools and hospitals. Outbreaks can occur at any time of the year but are more common during winter and into spring.

Norovirus Fact Sheet (October 2018)

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Pertussis (also known as whooping cough) is a highly infectious respiratory illness caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It can affect people at any age. Infants less than 6 months of age are most at risk of developing serious complications from the disease.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) (August 2018)


Psittacosis (also known as ornithosis and parrot fever) is an uncommon human disease caused by the bacteria called Chlamydophila psittaci. It is usually transmitted to humans from birds, normally those in the parrot family (parrots, lorikeets, galahs, cockatoos, budgerigars etc).

Psittacosis Fact Sheet

Rabies and Australian Bat Lyssavirus

Rabies virus and the Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABL) are in the same virus family and can cause fatal disease in humans. Rabies is a disease that primarily affects animals that bite and scratch. ABL is a virus that is closely related to rabies, which rarely infects humans and is spread by bats.

Rabies and Australian Bat Lyssavirus Infection Fact sheet


Rubella, also known as german measles, is an infectious disease caused by the rubella virus. Rubella is not very common in Australia now due to high levels of immunisation.

Rubella information sheet (October 2015)


Salmonellosis is an infection caused by a bacterium called Salmonella. People become unwell after swallowing bacteria. Usually this happens after eating inadequately cooked food, by cross-contamination or person to person spread.

Salmonella Fact Sheet (October 2018)


Scabies is a highly transmissible skin infestation caused by a mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. These mites burrow into the skin where they live and reproduce. Eggs laid in the burrows hatch, crawl out onto the skin and make new burrows.

Scabies Fact Sheet (October 2018)

Sexual Health Fact Sheets

For more information on Sexually Transmitted Infections, please see Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) fact sheets.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) & Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS)

Escherichia coli (E. coli) are bacteria that can be found in the intestinal tract of humans and animals. Some types of E. coli, such as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) release a toxin that causes gastroenteritis. Around 5% of STEC cases may develop a sometimes fatal condition called Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS), characterised by kidney failure, bleeding and anaemia.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) & Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS) Fact sheet (October 2018)

Shigellosis (Shigella infection)

Shigellosis is an infection caused by a bacterium called Shigella.

For more information, please see the fact sheet below or contact the Communicable Disease Control Section on 02 6205 2155.

Shigellosis Fact sheet (August 2018)


Shingles (or herpes zoster) is caused by a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Shingles Fact Sheet (October 2018)

Tamiflu (Oseltamivir)

See this consumer information about Tamiflu.

Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) Fact Sheet (September 2017)


Tuberculosis (TB) is a curable disease caused by the bacteria (germ) Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB can damage a person's lungs or other parts of the body and cause serious illness. TB spreads through the air when a person with TB disease in the lungs or throat, coughs, sneezes or speaks, sending germs into the air.

Tuberculosis Fact Sheet


Typhoid is caused by an infection with bacteria called Salmonella Typhi. In Australia, most typhoid infections are acquired overseas and occur after eating contaminated food or water in countries where typhoid is common.

Typhoid Fever Fact Sheet (November 2015)

Viral Gastroenteritis

Viral gastroenteritis is a common infection of the stomach and bowel that results in vomiting and diarrhoea. It is usually a mild illness and can be caused by a number of different viruses including Norovirus and Rotavirus.

Viral Gastroenteritis Fact Sheet (October 2018)

Emergencies and extreme weather

Asthma, hay fever and pollen

The purpose of this fact sheet is to advise individuals about pollen allergies and how affected community members can reduce their symptoms during the ACT pollen season. 

Avoiding heat-related stress

See these fact sheets on how to avoid heat-related stress.

For more information, call the Health Protection Service on (02) 6205 1700.

See also

Bushfire air quality

To protect public health and the environment, the National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) recommends the measurement of six criteria pollutants to give an indication of ambient air quality.

These six pollutants (ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particulates, sulfur dioxide, lead, and carbon monoxide) have the potential to affect human health as well as the environment.

Routine monitoring

Air quality in ACT is monitored routinely at several sites across Canberra for these pollutants as well as visual distance (which is a surrogate for very small particles). Sulfur dioxide is not measured routinely in Canberra because there is no heavy industry and sulfur containing fuel such as coal is not routinely burnt.

If air quality in Canberra is considered a hazard, eg to asthma sufferers, a health warning will be issued. The warning will remind asthmatics to continue their medication and consult their general practitioner if they have any difficulties. Vigorous exercise should be avoided and if possible individuals should stay inside during the hazard period.

If the measured pollutants indicate a health hazard in the future, a health warning will be issued as a media release.

Contact us

Contact the Health Protection Service on (02) 6205 1700 for further information.

Dust Storms

Dust storms are natural events that occur when heavy winds blow loose sand, dirt and other fine particles from deserts and semi-arid landscapes into urban areas. 

Dust storms may have adverse effects on your health and is especially harmful for people who already have breathing-related difficulties.  Inhaling small or fine dust can get deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems.

Outdoor Smoke - Health Impacts

Smoke from fires (including building fires, woodfire heaters, bushfires and hazard reduction burns) is made up of small particles and may include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.

Smoke can be harmful to your health and especially harmful to people who already have breathing-related difficulties.

What are the health effects of inhaling smoke?

Common symptoms that you may experience when around smoke includes:

  • Itchy or burning eyes;
  • Throat irritation;
  • Runny nose;
  • Shortness of breath and coughing.

Symptoms can occur for several days after exposure. Prolonged exposure to smoke particles can aggravate existing lung conditions, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma and other cardiac conditions. If you have a heart or lung condition, follow your treatment plan prescribed by your doctor.

Who can be affected by inhaling smoke?

Anyone can experience symptoms from inhaling smoke. People who are especially sensitive to the effects of smoke include:

• People with heart or lung conditions (including asthma);
• Children;
• Pregnant women; and
• People over 65 years of age.

How will I know if smoke concentrations are dangerous?

Usually smoke can be seen as a visible haze and can be detected by its distinctive smell. The more visible the smoke haze, and the stronger the odour, the more likely the smoke contains concentrations of gases and/or particles that are hazardous to your health.

What health precautions can I take?

The following precautions can help you minimise health effects from exposure:

  • Leave the area for a cleaner environment;
  • Stay indoors, with windows and doors closed;
  • Stay in air-conditioned premises and switch the air-conditioner to ‘recycle’ or ‘recirculate’ to reduce the amount of smoke entering the building;
  • Visit a local air-conditioned building such as a library, community centre or shopping centre;
  • Avoid vigorous exercise, especially if you have asthma or other chronic respiratory and/or chronic cardiac disease;
  • If you have asthma, continue taking your medication, follow your asthma plan, and consult with your general practitioner if required; and
  • If it is safe to do so, check on elderly neighbours or other people who you think might need extra help.

If you must be outdoors when smoke is present, consider using a P2 rated mask designed to filter fine particles. These masks are available from hardware retailers.

Anyone with concerns about their health should seek medical advice from their doctor. If you experience chest tightness, wheezing, or difficulty breathing, seek urgent medical assistance.

Where can I find more information about smoke?

ACT Health monitors air quality at several sites across Canberra. If the air quality in the ACT becomes a public health hazard, the Chief Health Officer will issue an alert to the public. You can also access further information on air quality page.


Flooding in the ACT is caused by rivers overflowing their banks or by localised rainfall at a rate that exceeds the local drains capacity, flash flooding.

In most cases, people will want to return to their homes as soon as possible after the flood waters have receded. While this should be encouraged, residents should only return once basic needs are available and the site is cleared of any hazards and declared safe by the relevant government agency.

Treated timber ash

Treated timber is commonly used for pergolas, decking, cubby houses, claddings, posts, gates, animal enclosures, and landscaping timbers. Many of these structures may be destroyed or damaged during bushfires and the burnt ash may present a hazard.

Treated timber, if burnt, can produce an ash that may contain arsenic, chromium and copper. While arsenic is the most toxic, all three may present a hazard if ingested.


  • Inhalation would not normally result in poisoning in these situations.
  • Children, pets and farm animals should be kept away from land where treated timber ash is present.
  • Young children, especially those under 5 years, are at an increased risk from personal contact and ingestion.
  • This hazard is not normally encountered as the public is aware that treated timber should not be burned.
  • In domestic situations, small amounts of treated timber ash can be put in a sealed container and disposed in the garbage.
  • The ash and any remaining burnt timber in destroyed properties will be removed during the clean up operations.
  • Ash that may be a hazard in parks and public grounds will be collected during the clean up operations.

Personal protection when collecting ash

  • Do not touch the ash with your bare skin and avoid disturbing or spreading it.
  • Wear gloves while working with the ash.
  • Moisten the ash prior to handling with a shovel.
  • Remove and wash clothing. Clean footwear.
  • Wash your hands after finishing work and before eating or food preparation.

Health advice

  • The risk of poisoning from ingestion of treated timber ash is very low. If in doubt seek medical advice.

Power Outages

Power outages can occur at any time from planned maintenance works to a significant emergency. This can impact upon residents’ health, especially during very hot or cold weather, or for residents who require electricity for medical support. Residents can take the following steps to ensure that their health is not impacted.

Before a Planned Power Outage

  • Charge your mobile phone and other IT devices in case of emergency calls;
  • Consider moving to an alternative location during the power outage;
  • Consume and reduce amount of perishable food stored in refrigerator and freezer to avoid wastage (unused food can be moved from the fridge to the freezer prior to outage);
  • Buy non-perishable foods to remove dependence on refrigerator;
  • In addition, if a person in the household has medical or mobility issues and requires power for essential medical equipment:
    • Register with your energy provider as a life support customer;
    • Put in place your management plan for not having power. The plan could cover:
      • What steps will you take – go to a friend’s house?
      • How will you get there – do you have transport and will you be able to transport your equipment?
      • Keep backup medical equipment fully charged at all times and ready to go if you need to use it;
    • Use alternate storage for refrigerated medications (E.g. esky with ice);
    • Use alternate power supplies to power medical equipment; and
    • Contact a relative, friend, or carer to help you during the outage if required.

During a Power Outage

  • If the outage is occurring during summer or hot weather:
    • Drink plenty of water, even when not thirsty;
    • Wear lightweight, light-coloured clothing;
    • If you remain at home, move to the lowest, coolest, part of your home;
    • For extended periods, consider going to a movie theatre, shopping mall or home of a relative or friend.
  • If the outage is occurring during winter or cold weather:
    • Put on layers of warm clothing; and
    • For extended periods, consider going to a home of a relative or friend, or a public library that has heating.

Food Safety during a Power Outage

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed (Only open when necessary):
    • An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours;
    • A full freezer will keep the temperature cold for about 48 hours;
    • Bagged ice can be placed under food packages or an insulating blanket can be placed over cold or frozen food;
  • Throw away any food that is spoiled:
    • Throw out perishable refrigerated food if the power has been off for more than 4 hours;
    • If frozen food thaws, either cook and eat it immediately, or throw it out, do not refreeze thawed food;
    • Food should not be eaten if it has an unusual smell, colour, or texture; and
  • Contact your doctor if you are concerned about medications having spoiled.

For Further Information

  • For information about the power outage, contact ActewAGL on 6248 3555.
  • For emergency help when your life is at risk, call 000.
  • Further information on food safety and heat-related stress is available on the ACT Health website.

Please note: Having a backup plan is still important even if you are a registered life support customer...unexpected power outages can happen.

Health Advice for Power Outages Information Sheet (December 2017)

Environmental Health


Final component of ACT Asbestos Health Study released (21 June 2017)

Data Linkage Study on the Risk of Mesothelioma and Other Cancers in Residents of Affected Residential Properties in the ACT

The purpose of the study, commissioned by the ACT Government, was to gain a better understanding of the health risks associated with living in a house insulated with “Mr Fluffy” loose-fill asbestos, which was installed in more than 1000 Canberra homes in the 1960s and 1970s.

The fourth part of the study links a number of data sets to estimate the risk of developing mesothelioma in current and former residents of affected houses compared with the general population.

More information

For a copy of the report, please visit:

For more information about asbestos, please visit:

If you have any asbestos related health concerns, please contact your GP who can provide an assessment of individual circumstances and exposure risks.

About Asbestos

Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring mineral fibres that were used extensively in many products due to their strength, insulating features and resistance to fire. The most common asbestos types used in Australia were chrysotile (white asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos) and crocidolite (blue asbestos).

Chrysotile was used until 2003 in products such as brake linings, paint and insulation. Amosite and crocidolite were used until the mid-1980s, most commonly in building materials (e.g. asbestos cement products, also known as 'fibro' and 'AC’ sheeting). During the 1960s and 1970s, pure loose-fill asbestos was sold by local company, Mr Fluffy, and pumped directly into roof spaces as ceiling insulation.

Asbestos fact sheet (October 2014)

Health information for households with Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation (October 2014)


Composting Toilets

This guideline sets out the minimum requirements for approval by ACT Health for installation of Waterless Composting Toilets, also known as humus closets and biological toilets, which treat human excreta and domestic organic matter from single domestic dwellings.

Approval of Waterless Composting Toilets in Domestic Premises information sheet

Death Cap Mushrooms


Amanita Phalloides

The Death Cap mushroom (Amanita Phalloides) is a deadly poisonous fungus. They often grow near established oak trees, and are found when there is warm, wet weather. In Canberra this usually occurs in autumn but there is no specific mushroom season. There have been multiple incidents and fatalities associated with Death Cap mushrooms.

It can be extremely difficult for even experienced collectors to distinguish Death Cap mushrooms from an edible mushroom. People should not pick or eat wild mushrooms, and should talk to their families, friends and neighbours about the dangers of Death Cap mushrooms. Cooking Death Cap mushrooms does not make them safe.


Symptoms of Death Cap mushroom poisoning generally occur 6–24 hours or more after ingestion of mushrooms and include stomach pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Symptoms may subside for 1–2 days giving a false impression of recovery. However, by this stage the toxin will have already caused serious liver damage. Liver failure and death may occur.

Medical Treatment

Anyone who suspects that they might have eaten Death Cap mushrooms should seek urgent medical attention at a hospital emergency department. Where possible take a whole mushroom sample for identification. The sooner the treatment begins, the better the chances of survival.

Further information and assistance if poisoning is suspected can be sought by calling the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 (24 hours a day, seven days a week).

Do not pick or eat any wild mushrooms.

Death Cap Mushrooms Information Sheet (Nov 2016)

Further information

For further information or to report the location of Death Cap mushrooms contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81.



Death Cap Mushrooms

Death Cap Mushrooms - Chinese Simplified

Death Cap Mushrooms - Chinese Traditional



Death Cap Mushrooms flyer

Death Cap Mushrooms - Chinese Simplified flyer

Death Cap Mushrooms - Chinese Traditional flyer

Death Cap Mushrooms - Amharic

Death Cap Mushrooms - Arabic

Death Cap Mushrooms - Dinka

Death Cap Mushrooms - Farsi

Death Cap Mushrooms - Hindi

Death Cap Mushrooms - Japanese

Death Cap Mushrooms - Korean

Death Cap Mushrooms - Thai

Death Cap Mushrooms - Turkish

Death Cap Mushrooms - Urdu

Death Cap Mushrooms - Vietnamese


Keeping Poultry

See the Keeping Poultry in the ACT fact sheet below.

Keeping Poultry in the ACT fact sheet

Lead Exposure

Lead is a naturally occurring metal.

People can be exposed to lead in the environment through food, drinking water, dust, soil and some consumer products, including lead containing paint, some glazed pottery, fishing sinkers and toys, and products manufactured overseas.

Lead can affect anybody, but children under five years of age are at greater risk because they tend to put their hands on objects into their mouths; they absorb more ingested lead than adults; and their brains are still at developing stage so they are more sensitive to the effects of lead.

The average blood lead level among Australians is estimated to be less than 5 micrograms per decilitre. A blood level greater than 5 micrograms per decilitre suggests exposure to lead at a level that is above what is considered the average ‘background’ exposure in Australia.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends blood lead level testing in individuals if there is a reason to suspect they have swallowed or breathed lead from a particular source (more than the very small amounts that exist in most people’s everyday environments); or if they have unexplained health problems that could be due to lead.

If you suspect that you or your child has been exposed to lead, see your doctor.

For more information visit https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/health-topics/lead-blood-levels

Managing Smoke Drift in Multi-Unit Developments

Smoke drift in multi-unit developments can be a complex issue when considering the both the personal liberties of smokers and the public health rights of other residents. People living in multi-unit settings share common space and infrastructure and as a consequence, rules apply that seek to balance the interests of all residents.

Managing Smoke Drift in Multi-Unit Developments Fact Sheet (PDF)


Moulds are a type of fungi that grows best in damp and poorly ventilated areas.

Mould can be found in all environments including outside. Mould may look like fuzz, or discoloration or a stain on material like wood.

About mould

Spores are the microscopic ‘seeds’ which fungi, including moulds release into the environment.

They are sufficiently small that they can be suspended in air and be widely distributed. Spores are present in all environments, including outdoors.

Mould fact sheet (June 2011)

Provision of toilets at public events

This fact sheet provides advice on the provision of toilet facilities at public events.

Provision of toilets at public events

Smoke-free Outdoor Eating and Drinking Areas

All outdoor eating and drinking areas across the ACT became smoke-free on 9 December 2010 under the Smoke-Free Public Places Act 2003 (the Act).

An outdoor eating and drinking area is a public place where tables and chairs are provided for customers to consume food purchased from an on-site service such as a restaurant, café, food van or take-away store.

All liquor licensed outdoor areas at venues across Canberra are classified as outdoor eating and drinking areas under the Act, meaning they are also smoke-free. Certain liquor licensed venues such as pubs, clubs, taverns and bars may, however, choose to establish outdoor smoking areas for their patrons.

These areas, called Designated Outdoor Smoking Areas (DOSAs), are designed to allow people who wish to smoke to take their drink outside while they have a cigarette before returning to their friends in non-smoking areas. DOSAs are subject to stringent rules such as no food or drink service and no eating.

Smoking is not banned on footpaths and other outdoor public spaces adjacent to outdoor eating and drinking areas. If smoke from adjacent public spaces drifts into an outdoor eating and drinking area, patrons may wish to ask the proprietor of the establishment to request, as a courtesy, that the smokers move further away. However, there is no legal requirement that smokers comply with the request.

The ACT currently has one of the lowest smoking rates in Australia. Education and awareness about the harm of environmental tobacco smoke continues to grow within the community.

Further information on smoke-free areas including frequently asked questions can be found below or at Tobacco licensing and smoking in public places​ (Access Canberra)



For more information on smoke-free laws and products to assist you or your business, visit our Tobacco Control and Smoke-free Environments page.

Food safety

Food-borne illness

Contaminated food causes an estimated 4.1 million cases of food-borne illness each year in Australia.  

For information on food-borne illness, see the fact sheet below or contact the Communicable Disease Control on 6205 2155.

Food-borne illness

Food Safety at Parties

Parties allow us to gather with the people we care about to celebrate.  The last thing we want is for our guests to get food poisoning, but unfortunately this does happen. See the fact sheet below for information on how to keep food safe at parties.

Food Safety at Parties

Summertime Food Safety

The risk of food-borne illness is particularly high in summer, as bacteria multiply faster in hot weather.
Following simple precautions in the handling, storage and preparation of food will reduce the risk of food becoming unsafe.  See our fact sheet on how to keep food safe in hot weather.

Summertime Food Safety Tips

Food safety when eating outdoors or barbecuing

Whether it's a barbecue, picnic or camping trip, food seems to taste better when you eat it outdoors. However, food poisoning can be a real risk, especially in the warmer months. You need to take a bit more care when preparing and storing foods for outdoor eating. For more information see the below fact sheet.

Food safety when eating outdoors or barbecuing

Guidelines for registered commercial BBQ stalls

A BBQ is a great way to fundraise for a good cause. For information in how to provide safe food, see the below fact sheet. 

Guidelines for registered commercial BBQ stalls

Temperature Danger Zone

Potentially hazardous foods must be stored, displayed and transported at safe temperatures to prevent food-borne illness. Keep hot foods at or above 60oC and keep cold foods at or below 5oC.

See the fact sheet below for information about the temperature danger zone.

Temperature Danger Zone

Lunches from Home

Packing a lunch for school or work can save money, but if it’s not prepared, stored and transported correctly, it may result in food borne-illness.  See our fact sheet below for information on how to keep your lunch from home safe.

Lunches from home

Pregnancy and Food Safety

Food safety is always important, but you have to be particularly careful during pregnancy.

See the fact sheet below for information on safe eating during pregnancy.

Pregnancy and Food Safety


Salmonellosis is an infection caused by Salmonella bacteria. People become unwell after swallowing these bacteria. Usually this happens after eating inadequately cooked food, by cross-contamination or person to person spread.

For more information, see the fact sheet below or contact Communicable Disease Control on 6205 2155.


Health improvement

Focus on Child Health

Focus on child health fact sheets 


Excess dietary salt (sodium chloride) has been linked with a number of diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, obesity and asthma.

Blood pressure increases progressively with increased sodium intake and a reduction in sodium intake lowers blood pressure (WHO 2003, NHMRC 2006).

Salt fact sheet (March 2011)

Australian Dietary Guidelines

Australian dietary guidelines suggest a dietary target of four grams of salt per day and an upper daily intake of six grams, however the average salt intake in the Australian population is seven to ten grams per day. Therefore there is a need for a significant reduction in intakes.

Lower salt intakes will lead to major reductions in both incidence of, and deaths from Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) i.e. stroke, heart failure and heart attacks, and a major reduction in the disability that results from CVD.

Processed food

Did you know that most salt we eat is added to the food before we buy it? 75% of the salt we ingest is from processed food.

Tips for cutting down on salt

  • Eat home-cooked meals using fresh food rather than takeaways and processed foods when possible
  • Get out of the habit of adding salt when cooking and at the table.
  • Check product labels and choose those products with less salt (<120mg/100g)
  • Go easy on the prepared sauces and choose a low salt option
  • Swap high-salt foods such as pies and sausages for lean meat or fish
  • Foods which are cured, smoked or pickled tend to be high in salt
  • Choose tinned vegetables, pulses and fish that say ‘no added salt’
  • Use herbs, spices, chilli, pepper and lemon to add flavour instead of salt
  • Keep some healthy snacks to hand, such as fruit or unsalted nuts
  • Don’t be fooled; sea salt and rock salt are just as bad for you as table salt


Medicines and poisons


Kava (Piper methysticum) is a plant native to the Pacific Islands that has been used as a ceremonial and relaxing drink by people of that region for centuries. The traditional kava drink is prepared from water extracts of the raw kava root or rhizome. It is commonly prepared by mixing powdered kava with water.

Kava, also known as Piper methysticum or kava-kava is also contained in some medicinal products such as tablets, capsules and tea bags for the treatment of anxiety.

Kava information sheet (October 2014)

Synthetic Cannabinoids (Synthetic Cannabis)

Synthetic cannabinoids are a range of synthetic substances that are designed to mimic the effect of cannabis. These substances are prohibited under Schedule 9 of the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons (SUSMP).

The ACT adopts the SUSMP under the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 2008. The sale, manufacture or possession of synthetic cannabis is therefore prohibited in the ACT.

Synthetic Cannabis fact sheet (January 2014)

Water quality

Greywater use

See these Guidelines for residential properties in Canberra regarding Greywater Use.

Greywater Use: Guidelines for residential properties in Canberra


This document has been developed to guide householders on the use of greywater in residential properties in the ACT. It covers system design considerations, owner obligations, health and environmental implications and legislative requirements associated with its use.Because greywater has already been used, it may contain substances harmful to public health and the environment. However, through your understanding of health and environmental considerations, your ongoing commitment to some simple principles, and by following relevant ACT legislations, you will be able to use greywater without compromising public health, your household or the environment.

ACT Health has prepared these Greywater Use Guidelines in partnership with the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development DirectorateTransport and City Services and ACTEW .

Rainwater Tanks

People in rural areas of the ACT who have rain-water tanks or other private water supplies need to ensure that their water supply is safe.

There may be particular issues for water supplies in fire-affect areas, in addition to normal health-related issues which pertain to rainwater tanks.

Water from rainwater tanks or deep bores is usually safe to drink. However, it can sometimes be contaminated by human, bird or animal faeces, usually from leaking septic tanks, wastewater drainage or bird or animal droppings on roofs.

Local streams may also be contaminated by runoff washed from farmyards, pastures and drains, making them generally unsuitable as a source of drinking water unless the water is properly treated.

Contaminated water may contain harmful micro-organisms, such as viruses, bacteria (such as salmonella or campylobacter) and gastro-intestinal parasites (such as giardia or cryptosporidium). These harmful micro-organisms, known as pathogens, are not visible to the naked eye and may even be present in relatively clear water.

Drinking water containing these micro-organisms can cause severe gastro-enteritis, possibly lasting for several weeks. Infants, the elderly and people with suppressed immune systems are most likely to be affected.

Chemical contaminants are usually less common than microbiological contaminants, but they can still be present in the rural environment.

For example, soil from old industrial, mining or agricultural areas may contain arsenic, heavy metals, pesticide residues or other chemicals.

If dust is blown onto your roof and is washed into your rainwater tank, chemical residues may build up in the water. Runoff from roofs in urban or industrial areas may also contain chemical pollutants from the air.

More detailed information about planning, installing and using rainwater tanks can be found in the monograph `Rainwater tanks Guidelines for residential properties in Canberra’ October 2010

Treated effluent

ACT Health supports the use of treated effluent from the Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre (LMWQCC), provided public health risks associated with the use are understood and minimised.

ACT Health has developed this document to safeguard the public and assist businesses when using treated effluent from the LMWQCC.

Treated Effluent Fact Sheet (July 2014)

Recreational Water quality

The “ACT Guidelines for Recreational Water Quality” provide a framework for the management of recreational water sites within the ACT. ( Link to the Document).  It addresses risks from blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) as well as microbial pathogens.  The guidelines only apply to the lakes and river sites where primary contact recreational activities are permitted. The assessment of the water quality adopts a preventative risk management approach. These guidelines are based on the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Guidelines for Managing Risks in Recreational Waters published in February 2008 and adapted for the ACT environment. 

More information

The Health Protection Service can advise you on health issues associated with private drinking water supplies and can arrange to have your water tested. Contact them on (02) 62051700, email: hps@act.gov.au, or visit their offices at 25 Mulley Street, Holder (Mon. Fri., 8.30am-4.30pm).

Environment ACT has a wide range of free publications about water quality, bore water supplies dam supplies, toxic algae and rural land management. Contact them on (02) 207 9777, email: technical.environ@act.gov.au for copies, or visit their offices at 12 Wattle Street, Lyneham. EnvironmentACT web site.

More detailed information about planning, installing and using rainwater tanks can be found in the monograph Guidance on the use of rainwater tanks from the South Australian Department of Human Services web site', published by the National Environmental Health Forum in 1998 (ISBN 0 642 320160). This can be purchased from the South Australian Department of Human Services on (08) 8226 7100.

If you have any questions about your health or the effect on your health of drinking from a particular water supply, please consult your family doctor.

If you would like to find out more about drinking water quality in Australia, visit the Water Research Australia's website.


It is not possible to predict every situation or circumstance in which community members may refer to this document. While all advice and recommendations in this document are made in good faith, neither the Department of Health and Community Care nor any other person associated with the preparation of this document accepts legal liability or responsibility for the advice or recommendations therein or for the consequences of relying on such advice or recommendations. You should satisfy yourself that any information you rely on from any source is appropriate for your own particular circumstances.


The Health Protection Service acknowledges the following sources in the preparation of this fact sheet:

Contact us

For further information, contact the Health Protection Service on (02) 6205 1700.

Page last updated on: 22 Oct 2018