The Public Health Agency (PHA) continues to advise the public to boil emergency water collected from standpipes and bowsers during the current water shortage. This is particularly important where water is used for direct consumption, for example drinking, brushing teeth, making up baby formula and ice cubes.
Dr Carolyn Harper, Director of Public Health in Northern Ireland, said: “During the current water shortage it is very important that people who collect water from standpipes and water bowsers boil it before it is consumed. Although the quality of the water is wholesome, the cleanliness of containers used to collect the water cannot be guaranteed. As a precautionary measure, people should boil and cool the water if they are going to use it for drinking, brushing teeth, to make ice cubes and other similar uses.
"It is important that bottles and containers used to collect water are clean and suitable for containing drinking water. Don't use anything that previously contained products that can't be consumed as washing may not remove all of the previous product.”
Dr Harper also reminded the public about the continued importance of maintaining good hand hygiene, particularly before cooking food and eating and after using the toilet and changing nappies. The very young and elderly are particularly vulnerable. The PHA recommends the following advice:
• use any water you have for hand washing first before you use if for showering or bathing;
• use antibacterial hand gels or wipes, if you have them, if you don't have water immediately available to wash hands;
• to conserve water you can use disinfectant wipes to clean kitchen and bathroom areas in particular;
• be extra vigilant in supervising small children to keep their hands clean too.
Dr Harper continued, "This is the time of year when we normally see more flu and stomach upsets and it is essential that everyone is extra careful and follows the advice we've given. We haven't seen any unusual increase in illness, but we need the public to remain vigilant.
"Staying warm is also a priority for good health, particularly with more cold weather forecast. If you can't use your heating system, you should:
▪ wear several thin layers of clothing as they will keep you warmer than one thick layer - wear a hat, scarf and gloves at home if you need to;
▪ use electric heaters or stand-alone fuel/gas heaters that have been properly serviced;
▪ get an approved carbon monoxide monitor for rooms where you use any gas/fuel burning appliance."
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Additional information is available on the following websites:
◦NI Water: www.niwater.com
◦Belfast City Council: www.belfastcity.gov.uk/bigfreeze/water.asp
◦Advice for food handlers and operators - see Belfast City Council: www.belfastcity.gov.uk/bigfreeze/water.asp (Scroll to bottom of the page for the appropriate information.)