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Townsville Residents Face Deadly Health Risks In Ongoing Flood Fallout

Townsville residents might have seen the back of a once-in-a-century monsoon, but a deadly disease breakout stemming from floodwater is threatening lives.

Already one person has died from melioidosis, an infection which usually enters the body via cuts and sores and affects the lungs.

A further nine people have been infected, Queensland Health's Dr Julia Mudd confirmed this week, with many of them in intensive care.

READ MORE: One Person Dies From Queensland Flood Disease

"Given the scale of the flooding we are expecting to see increasing numbers of a range of infections, not just melioidosis," Mudd said.

Melioidosis and other flood-born infections can more severely impact the elderly and people who are unwell or have existing chronic conditions, with these people being urged to call an ambulance if they are unwell or have a fever.

A respiratory health warning has also been issued, with asthmatics warned to be particularly vigilant with medication as warm, damp environments encourage mould and mildew to grow.

Chris Mitchell piles up flood-damaged items out of his father in-law's house in the Townsville suburb of Rosslea. Photo: AAP.

"Assume all water-damaged items have mould growing on them," CEO of Asthma Australia Michelle Goldman said.

"Be aware that your asthma may worsen in the coming weeks and months due to exposure to mould and faunal spores."

Farmers and cleanup workers are being advised to protect themselves from infection as they begin the massive cleanup of dead livestock, with an estimated half a million cattle killed in the disaster alone.

"Carcasses should be handled as little as possible, with the use of machinery such as excavators or backhoes the preferred method if the situation allows," a Biosecurity Queensland spokesperson told 10 daily.

"Appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn wherever possible."

As many as 500,000 cattle are expected to have been killed during these floods. Photo: AAP.

The Australia Defence Force is providing assistance with the monster cleanup effort, which is being led by local councils.

"As the weather progress and heats up there, it's becoming a bio-security matter," Agriculture Minister Mark Furner told 10 News First.

Ariel footage shows scores of dead and dying livestock, killed by the floodwaters and exposed by receding waters.

But the waterlogged dirt is proving difficult to even begin the disposal effort.

READ MORE: Australian Beef Supply To Be 'Significantly Impacted BY Flood Deaths

"Some of these cattle have already been laying here for days, already deceased and some of their bodies are starting to decompose, so how do you shift that?" Director of Grain Producers Australia Luke Arbuckle told 10 daily.

"How do you move that?"

More than a year's rain has fallen on large swathes of north and western Queensland. Photo: AAP.

Farmer Anastasia Fanning told 10 News First that the situation wasn't just an agricultural crisis, but a humanitarian one.

"It's not just the loss of cattle, that they've worked so hard [for]," she said, tearing up.

"It's financial pressures on top of that. It's just devastating."

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au