Fact sheets

A summary of public health messages associated with natural disasters and weather-related emergencies.

Communicable disease information

For more information on communicable diseases, please see the fact sheets below or contact the Communicable Disease Control Section on (02) 5124 9213.


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


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


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

Cryptosporidiosis Fact Sheet


Dengue, sometimes called dengue fever or dengue haemorrhagic fever, is a viral infection that can be caught after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

Dengue 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


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

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

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 

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

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


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

Influenza (Flu) Fact Sheet

Antiviral medications can be used for the treatment and prevention of influenza.

Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) 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 Group A Streptococcal (iGAS) Disease

Invasive group A streptococcal disease (iGAS) is caused by infection with Group A Streptococcus bacteria (Group A Strep). These bacteria also cause common infections such as sore throat, scarlet fever and skin infections (for example, impetigo, school sores).

Invasive Group A Streptococcal (iGAS) Disease Fact Sheet

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 

Legionnaires’ Disease

Legionnaires’ Disease, also known as Legionellosis, is an infection of the lungs (pneumonia) by bacteria of the Legionella family. Infection occurs when a person breathes in bacteria that are commonly found in the environment.

Legionnaires’ disease Fact Sheet


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


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


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

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


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.

Meningococcal Disease Fact Sheet 

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

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

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


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


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

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)


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

Q fever

Q fever is an illness caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii. It is spread to humans from cattle, sheep and goats and a range of other domestic and wild animals.

Q fever Fact Sheet

Rabies and Australian Bat Lyssavirus

Rabies virus and the Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV) 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. ABLV 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

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) 

Respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, is a contagious virus that is a frequent cause of 
the common cold.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) 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


Salmonellosis is an infection caused by a group of bacteria called Samonella. 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


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 

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


Shigellosis is an infection caused by a bacterium called ShigellaThe symptoms usually include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting and headaches. Sometimes the diarrhoea can contain blood and mucus.

Shigellosis Fact sheet


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

Shingles Fact Sheet 


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.

Tuberculosis Fact Sheet

Typhoid and Paratyphoid fever

Typhoid and Paratyphoid fever 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 and Paratyphoid fever Fever Fact Sheet

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 (PDF)

Viral Gastroenteritis Fact Sheet (DOCX)

Death cap mushrooms

Death cap mushrooms

The death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides) is a deadly poisonous fungus that is found across the Canberra region. 

There have been multiple incidents and fatalities associated with death cap mushrooms in the ACT.

Death cap mushrooms can grow anywhere in our region, at any time. All parts of the death cap mushroom are poisonous. Eating even a small amount of a death cap mushroom can kill you. Death cap mushrooms remain potentially lethal, even if cooked.

  • Do not touch or eat wild mushrooms.
  • Talk to your family and friends about staying away from any wild mushrooms.
  • Remind visitors and people new to the ACT that death cap mushrooms grow in Canberra.
  • Keep children and pets away from wild mushrooms.

Symptoms and medical treatment

If you think you may have eaten a death cap mushroom:

  • Seek immediate medical attention at a hospital emergency department. 
  • Do not wait for symptoms to occur. 
  • The chances of survival increase when treatment is started early.
  • Take any remaining mushroom to the hospital for identification.
    • Do this by placing any remaining mushroom in a sealed and labelled container.
    • Wash your hands and any equipment or tools which have come into contact with the mushroom.

Symptoms of death cap mushroom poisoning generally occur 6–24 hours or more after ingestion and include abdominal 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.

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

If you think you have seen a death cap mushroom

It can be extremely difficult to distinguish death cap mushrooms from edible mushrooms, even for experienced collectors.

If you think a death cap mushroom may be growing in a public area:

  • Report it to Access Canberra on 13 22 81.

If you find wild mushrooms at home:

  • Keep children and pets away from them.
  • Do not touch them with bare hands. 
  • Remove them using gloves or tools and place them in a plastic bag.
  • Dispose of the bag with your household rubbish, ensuring it cannot be accessed by children or animals. 
  • Wash your hands and any tools used to help remove mushrooms.


  • Do not touch or eat wild mushrooms.
  • Remove wild mushrooms before mowing, as mowing over mushrooms can actually spread them further. 
  • Kicking or stomping on wild mushrooms will not eradicate them or eliminate the risk they pose to children or pets. 
  • Do not compost wild mushrooms.


Information sheet




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

Heat-related stress can occur when a person is exposed to a hot environment, including summer heatwave conditions. The early symptoms of heat-related stress include headaches, dizziness, faintness, nausea and vomiting.

You can protect yourself from heat-related stress by taking the following steps:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Stay in a cool environment
  • Reduce physical activity
  • Take extra measures to increase cooling
  • Look out for your neighbours, family, and friends.

For more information, refer to the fact sheets below.

See also

Bushfire smoke

Dust storms

The purpose of this fact sheet is to advise individuals about dust storms and the precautions you can take to to minimise health effects from exposure.

Flash Flooding

There is a risk of flash flooding in the ACT. Flash floods can occur when heavy rain cannot drain away quicker than it falls. Flash flooding typically occurs over a localised area for a short duration of time.

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.

For further information, go to the ACT Emergency Services Agency website or call the ACT State Emergency Service on 132 500.

Flash Floods – Protecting Your Health

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 during a power outage to ensure their health:

  • Consider moving to an alternative location during the power outage
  • If the outage is occurring during summer or hot weather, drink plenty of water, move to the coolest part of your home, and for consider going to a movie theatre, shopping mall or home of a relative or friend for extended outages;
  • If the outage is occurring during winter or cold weather, put on layers of warm clothing and consider going to a home of a relative or friend that has heating for extended outages;
  • Consider food safety, including whether food has gone off during an extended power outage. If in doubt, throw it out.

For further information about the power outage, go to the evoenergy website. 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

Lead exposure and your health

Lead is not required for any normal bodily function. This metal has been used extensively by many industries in the past but as our knowledge of its toxic health effects expands, the use of lead continues to be regulated and reduced.

It is important that if you believe you or a family member may have been exposed to lead or are suffering from lead poisoning, you speak to your family doctor.


Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal, often used in industry. It can be dispersed widely in the environment through contamination of water, dust, soil and some paints.

Past uses of lead have caused significant human health problems and environmental degradation, especially through decreased air quality through emissions of lead-based petrol.  National legislation has removed lead from petrol for road vehicles since the year 2000, though certain aviation gasoline and racing fuels may still contain lead. Legislation was also introduced in the 1990s to limit the amount of lead permitted within lead-based paint in the Australian market.

Environmental sources of lead

Lead may be found in the following environmental sources:

  • Paint – Interior and exterior lead-based household paints were commonly used before 1970 in Australia. Lead concentrations of up to 0.5% could be found in paint up to 1991.
  • Dust - Household dust may contain lead particles from deteriorating lead-based paint, contaminated soil or from dust brought into the house on the feet of people and pets. Workers in the lead industry may also bring lead dust home on their clothes or tools.
  • Soil - Dirt can become contaminated with lead by deteriorating or otherwise disturbed lead-based paint, and previous industrial activities such as mining.
  • Water - Some older household pipes used to be soldered with lead. Rainwater from water tanks may have increased lead levels if lead containing dust has contaminated the roof or guttering, or by lead leached from the roof and pipes.
  • Fumes - From the use of tools such as a heat gun or soldering iron to heat up a surface containing lead.

Certain hobbies may also cause exposure to lead through working directly with lead or lead-based paint in the making of leadlight windows, glazed pottery, stained glass and fishing sinkers.

Exposure pathways

Lead can enter your body by inhalation of air containing very small lead particles, or by swallowing dust, soil or paint chips containing lead particles. Only a small amount of lead can be absorbed into the bloodstream through your skin. Once lead particles are swallowed or inhaled, the amount of lead that gets into your blood will depend on several factors including your age, when you last ate and how well the lead particles dissolve in the stomach or lung.

Shortly after lead is absorbed into your body it travels via the bloodstream to soft tissues and organs, such as liver, kidneys, brain, muscles and heart. The lead can be either stored or excreted into your urine and faeces. The time it takes for most of the lead to be excreted depends on your exposure time. The amount of lead measured in your blood is the best indicator of recent exposure.

Infants, children and pregnant women are at the greatest risk of harm from lead.

Human health effects of lead

Potential health effects as a result of lead exposure will vary between different people. Many factors such as a person’s age, the amount of lead, whether the exposure is over a short term or a longer period, and the presence of other health conditions, will influence what symptoms or health effects are experienced. Lead can be harmful to people of all ages, but the risk of health effects is highest for infants, children and pregnant women.

Lead can affect almost every organ and system in the body. Lead poisoning can occur without obvious symptoms and can go unrecognised.

In adults, long-term exposure to low lead levels may result in weakness in fingers, wrists and ankles as well as headaches, fatigue, small increases in blood pressure, anaemia (low iron levels) and damaged nerve and renal function. At very high levels, lead can severely damage brain and kidney function.

Children and lead

Children under the age of five years are more sensitive to the effects of lead because their nervous systems are developing and their bodies absorb more ingested lead than an adult. They are also at greater risk of lead exposure due to their tendency to put their hands, or other lead-containing objects, like toys, into their mouths.

Children spend more of their time in areas that can be easily contaminated, for example floors and soil. Lead absorbed by an expectant mother can also pass through the placenta to the baby.

Lead exposure in children can cause behaviour and attention problems, learning difficulties and cognitive losses. It may also have effects on physical growth, blood cell development and kidney function.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a safe level of lead exposure?

Lead is not a requirement for the human body to function. Lead exposure should be minimised and prevented as much as possible because of its ability to cause harm at all ages.

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that blood lead level testing be considered for anyone who has reason to suspect that they have swallowed or inhaled lead from a particular source (more than the very small amounts in everyday environments); or if someone in the same household has had a blood test that showed a level greater than 5 micrograms per decilitre; or if there are unexplained health problems that could be due to lead. When a person’s blood lead level exceeds 5 micrograms per decilitre, the source of the exposure should be investigated and reduced. This is especially important in cases where infants, children and pregnant women are at risk.

How can I reduce the risk of exposure to lead?

  • Safely remove lead-based paint or recoat with new lead-free paint to reduce risk of exposure.
  • If house demolitions and renovations are planned, especially if the house was built before 1970, ensure pregnant women and children are not in the area.
  • Reduce exposure to dust and fumes by following the correct techniques for stripping lead-painted surfaces, and ensure debris is not burned, but rather disposed of safely.
  • Some occupations involve working with lead, such as lead mining, smelting, battery recycling, which may place workers at greater risk of lead exposure. Showering, changing clothes and washing private vehicles before leaving work is therefore recommended to reduce possible exposure to others.
  • Regular cleaning is encouraged by vacuuming carpets, furnishings and furniture using a vacuum fitted with a high efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA filter) and disposal of the vacuum dust in a sealed rubbish bin. Regular dusting by a damp cloth and wet mop, can also help minimise exposure.
  • Frequently wash children's hands. Move children’s play areas away from bare soil and try to keep your child out of the dirt.
  • Regularly wash family pets and toys, ensuring any recalled imported toys are removed.
  • Children should be encouraged to eat in highchairs or at tables and food dropped on the floor should be discarded.
  • If rainwater could possibly contain lead dust it should not be used for cooking, food preparation or drinking (including making up baby formula or cordial)
  • It is important that children eat a healthy balanced diet with adequate calcium, iron and vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Good nutrition with frequent meals and snacks lowers the amount of swallowed lead that is absorbed and may reduce some toxic health effects.

How can I tell if my home contains lead-based paint and what should I do if it does?

The National Health and Medical Research Council has published a Frequently Asked Questions document on their information paper titled Evidence on the Effects of Lead on Human Health, which provides information and advice on detecting lead in the home and the steps to take if lead is found.

Additionally, the Australian Government Department of the Environment has published a six-step guide to painting homes where lead-based paint has been used.

What do I do if I think I have been exposed to lead?

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends blood lead level testing in individuals if there is a reason to suspect they have swallowed or inhaled lead from a particular source (more than the very small amounts in everyday environments); or if someone in the same household has had a blood test that showed a level greater than 5 micrograms per decilitre; or if there are unexplained health problems that could be due to lead.

Speak to your doctor if you believe you or a family member may have been exposed to lead or be suffering from lead poisoning.

Further information

Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 (24 hours a day) if you suspect poisoning.

Contact the EPA through Access Canberra on 13 22 81 for advice on the removal and disposal of dry lead paint.

The Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website which provides information relating to lead and specific exposure sources.

If you are concerned about lead or lead exposure in your workplace, contact Worksafe ACT by calling 13 22 81, or Report a workplace concern or issue online.

Workplace lead safety standards


Access Canberra Webpage – Preventing Pollution from Painting

EPA NSW - Lead Safety

NHMRC Frequently Asked Questions - NHMRC Information Paper: Evidence on the Effects of Lead on Human Health May 2015

NHMRC - Information paper: Evidence on the effects of lead on human health

NSW Health - Lead exposure in children

Queensland Health - Guidelines for Public Health Units

SA Health Factsheet - Lead and your health

The Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website

The Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website - Lead in house paint

The Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website - Lead Alert: The six step guide to painting your home

WA Department of Health Webpage - Lead exposure

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.



Loose-Fill Asbestos Disease Support Scheme

The Support Scheme to provide financial support for people with an asbestos-related disease from living in a loose-fill asbestos insulation (Mr Fluffy) affected property in the ACT, and their families is open.

The $16 million Support Scheme is equally funded by the ACT and Australian governments and is administered by the ACT Government.

Find out more about the Support Scheme.

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

Electronic cigarettes

For information about e-cigarettes and vaping go to smoking and vaping.

Health impacts of e-cigarettes for children, young people and adults (PDF).

Keeping Domestic Birds

See the Keeping Domestic Birds in the ACT fact sheet below.

Keeping Domestic Birds in the ACT fact sheet

Lead Exposure

For information regarding Lead exposure please see the “Lead Exposure and your Health” section.

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

Australian Government Department of Health Potential Health Effects of Mould in the Environment fact sheet 

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

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.
Rodent – Prevention and Management

Rats and mice are types of rodents well adapted to living in close association with humans and have successfully populated many built environments across the globe. Their presence in large numbers is undesirable due to their ability to physically damage structures, spoil and contaminate food and pose a risk to human health. 

Main species of concern

Native Australian rodents (for example Rakali or Water Rat) pose little or no threat to public health and should be left alone as they are protected species. However, introduced (feral) rodents may infest residential and agricultural areas and carry disease. The common feral rodents in the ACT are:

Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus):

Weight of 450g

Heavy Set Body

Blunt nose

Small ears

Course, red – brown hair

Tail is usually shorter than the body and the head

brown rat

Black Rat (Rattus rattus):

Weight of 260g

Slender body

Pointed nose

Large ears

Fine grey, black or brown hair

Tail is usually longer than the body and the head

black rat

House Mouse (Mus musculus):

Weight of 15g

7.5cm long

Grey, brown hair

Body shape is pointed at one end

Tail is about 8cm long

house mouse

Health risks posed by rodents

Feral rodents can:

  • Carry diseases such as leptospirosis which may be transmitted to humans through exposure to their urine.
  • Contaminate food with their hair, droppings and urine, resulting in food poisoning and spoilage.
  • Generate unpleasant odours.
  • Carry fleas or ticks which may in turn transmit infectious diseases. 
  • Damage materials such as food containers, wood, particle board, insulation and wiring through gnawing.

Detecting rodent activity

Rodents will shelter and nest in places such as homes, sheds, garages and gardens, particularly:

  • In walls, ceilings and under floors.
  • Behind or under cupboards or bathtubs.
  • Behind or under fridges, freezers and dishwashers
  • Behind boxes, machinery and furniture.  
  • In rubbish heaps, wood piles, thick vegetation, animal enclosures, paper or cloth.
  • In holes under buildings.

Rodents are generally more active at night and are more commonly seen in late summer/early autumn. If you see rodents during the day, this usually indicates high numbers or that there is a good food supply nearby.

When inspecting for rodent activity, look for the following:

  • Black, moist, thin droppings inside or around the property.
  • Urine odours.
  • Squeaking, gnawing or movement noises in the walls, cupboards, ceilings and under floors.
  • A worn path where they have developed a ‘run’ that leads to their shelter.
  • Greasy marks along the paths they travel.
  • Burrow holes around buildings, fences or concrete slabs.
  • Signs of gnawing damage on fruit and vegetables or materials such as wood, insulation and electrical cabling.
  • Nests, including in hidden areas, made up of a wide range of materials such as cardboard, paper and straw.
  • Pets that are more excitable than usual.


If you find signs of rodents, you can take immediate action to help reduce any health risk to you and the occupants of your property:

  • Secure all foodstuffs in tightly sealed containers.
  • Throw away food or drink that may have come into contact with rodents or their urine/faeces.
  • Wash cookware and cutlery in warm soapy water before use.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before preparing food, eating or drinking. 
  • Wear shoes and do not lie or sleep on areas where rodents have been active. If you are bitten by a rat or mouse, consult your doctor promptly.

Preventing rodent habitation

Rodents are well adapted to living in human environments and whilst total elimination of rodents may not be possible, removal of conditions which help harbour rodents can be the most effective means of managing their activity. You can do this by:

Removing food and water sources

  • Dispose of food scraps promptly and clean food preparation areas thoroughly.
  • Ensure rubbish bins have tight-fitting lids and are regularly emptied.
  • Dispose of fallen fruit and seeds and waste from aviaries and chicken pens.
  • Remove seed from wild bird feeders
  • Do not use open compost heaps and do not compost any animal products (fish, meat, chicken, cheese, butter) or pet faeces.
  • Leave out just enough pet food for pets to eat soon after it is placed there.
  • Store pet/poultry food in vermin proof containers with close-fitting lids.
  • Cover rainwater tank openings and floor vents with vermin mesh and check and maintain these regularly.

Removing Shelter

  • Inspect living and working areas for potential rodent entrances and block them where possible with concrete, hard setting filler, steel wool or heavy gauge sheet metal.
  • Keep your home and property clear of rubbish.
  • Keep stacked materials such as wood and bricks at least 30cm above the ground to minimise hiding / nesting / thoroughfare of rats and mice.
  • Regularly clean out sheds and storage areas and dispose of unwanted items.
  • Remove unwanted undergrowth – cut back grass, trees, bushes, and creepers which may provide cover or access to the roof.
  • Block access points to cupboards containing food and food-preparation utensils. 

Treating a rodent problem


Mouse and rat traps differ in size and strength, so it is important to identify the type of rodent before determining the most suitable trap to be used. Traps can be purchased from hardware stores or supermarkets.

  • Several traps should be used at one time. 
  • Do not set traps near food preparation areas. 
  • Place traps across ’runs’ for a few days before setting to allow rodents to get used to the traps. 
  • If you have children or pets which may be exposed to traps, consider traps that are child/pet safe in design and fully enclose any trapped rodent.
  • Traps can be successfully set with bacon, peanut butter, fish, meat, bread or chocolate. Contrary to popular belief, cheese is not an effective bait as some species of rodents find the scent of cheese unappealing.
  • Check traps daily; remove any dead rodents and refresh the bait. See how to dispose of rodents below
  • Use an insecticidal surface spray around the immediate area to kill any fleas which may leave a trapped rodent’s body. 


Chemical control should only be considered as part of a broader control program of eliminating food sources and rodent harbourage. Chemical control is generally short-term, and rodents will return if food and shelter are still available.

If you do decide to use a chemical control method, you should consider:

  • If rodents die and decay in hard-to-reach places they may cause an offensive odour;
  • Pets and children may eat toxic baits or poisoned rodent bodies; and
  • Some individuals are sensitive to rodent control chemicals in their environment;

Ensure if you use chemical control you:

  • Read the product label prior to use and only apply pesticides in accordance with the label directions including any safety information. 
  • Wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as directed by the pesticide manufacturer (e.g., gloves and respirator) when handling pesticides and ensure PPE is washed or disposed of after use. Always wash your hands thoroughly after any handling of chemical control agents.
  • Baits should be placed (and stored) in locations away from open spaces that cannot be accessed by children, pets, wildlife or livestock, and/or use lockable bait stations. 
  • Place baits only in locations from which they can later be retrieved. 
  • Keep a record of bait placements.
  • Inspect bait stations regularly and remove baits if the rodent problem ceases, ensuring appropriate disposal.
  • Notify all occupants of the building about the use of pesticides. 
  • Do not place baits or tracking powder where they can cause food contamination. 
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke when handling pesticides. 
  • Store pesticides in their original containers and ensure that the label remains intact. 

Extreme care must be taken when using poisons (read instructions carefully) to prevent danger of children or pets being accidentally poisoned. Should you be concerned that a child or pet has come into contact with a chemical control agent please ring the poisons information line on 131 126 at any time and follow their advice.

Obtaining professional assistance

Where you are uncomfortable or unable to undertake rodent control steps, you may wish to contact a professional pest controller for advice and assistance.

Disposing of Dead rodents

When disposing of dead rodents wear gloves and clothes that cover bare skin and use a shovel, rake or dustpan to collect dead animals. Covering exposed skin will help avoid contact with any body fluids and dust from the dead animals.
Dead rodents can be buried or wrapped and placed into a domestic rubbish bin to prevent pets or native animals having access to them. Remember to wash your hands with soap and warm water immediately after handling.

Rodent Action Plan

If you are seeing concerning signs of increasing rodent activity on your property the table below provides advice on how to respond.

rodent action plan

Download the Rodent Action Plan

Acknowledgments: This rodent action plan has been reproduced with kind permission of the City of West Torrens, South Australia

Health Protection Service investigations

Due to their success in living alongside humans, rodents are present throughout Canberra and the built environment. As a result, it is unrealistic to eradicate all rodents. Small numbers of rodents are likely to exist in your neighbourhood, despite all the above measures being undertaken. When rodents are at low numbers in your neighbourhood, the risk to human health is low.

If you are concerned regarding increasing rodent activity in your area, you are encouraged to undertake the advice contained in the flowchart above and discuss your concerns with your neighbours. A conversation with neighbours may help alert surrounding properties to remove sources of food and shelter and help to minimise the overall numbers in surrounding areas.

If you are experiencing an infestation of rodents and have followed the advice above with no relief, you may contact the Health Protection Service who may investigate whether an insanitary condition is being created under the Public Health Act 1997

An insanitary condition is a condition which represents a public health risk and is only likely to exist where large rodent populations exist (such as infestations), and rodents are coming into close contact with humans.  Owners and occupiers of premises are required to take reasonable precautions to prevent rodents living and breeding on their property at levels which may cause insanitary conditions. 

Need more information?

For more information on insanitary conditions, please contact the Health Protection Service via hps@act.gov.au or (02) 5124 9700.

Food safety

BYO containers in food businesses

In the ACT, the Food Act 2001 and the Food Standards Code allow for the use of BYO containers in food businesses (e.g. coffee cups, lunch boxes). For more information, see the below fact sheet.

BYO Containers fact sheet

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 (02) 5124 9213.

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 (02) 5124 9213.


Tea towels in food businesses

Food handlers must, whenever washing their hands, thoroughly dry their hands on a single-use towel or in another way that is not likely to transfer bacteria. Tea towels do not meet this requirement unless they are used once only and then discarded for launder. Tea towels are considered equipment and must be maintained in a good state of repair, be clean and adequate for safe and suitable food production.

Tea towels in food businesses

Food labelling, getting it right?

The Food Standards Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code outlines your food labelling and information requirements that are relevant to all foods and sets out which requirements apply in different situations. The Code also includes specific labelling and information requirements that apply to certain food products only.

Food labelling, getting it right?

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

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

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

Water quality

Blue Green Algae

Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria known as Cyanobacteria. Like plants, blue-green algae can capture energy from the sun via a process known as photosynthesis. Blue-green algae usually grow on the surface of water, which allows them to trap as much sunlight as possible. Low numbers of blue-green algae are a normal part of the ecosystem in most waterways, including lakes, rivers, creeks and wetlands.

Blue Green Algae Fact Sheet

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

Recreational Water quality

The ACT Guidelines for Recreational Water Quality provide a framework for the management of recreational water sites within the ACT. 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. Environment ACT 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: 28 Nov 2023