‘Think rain, dirt, and then mud applied with alcohol, public urination and belligerent stuffing of the face. All these rather common festival activities are actually increasing the threat of public health issues,’ says La Trobe University Senior Lecturer in Environmental Health, Dr Cameron Earl.
It is for these reasons that Environmental Health Practitioners, like Dr Earl, invest considerable time and energy supporting event organisers to improve their public health standards at these events.
‘There are many other public health concerns associated with outdoor music festivals including food and water borne illnesses, solar ultraviolet exposure and access to clean toilets,’ he says.
Over the past ten years, Dr Earl has attended the Glastonbury Festival in the UK a festival that houses over 170,000 attendees dwarfing the close to 12,000 people that enjoy Meredith.
‘An important role of Environmental Health Practitioners at the Glastonbury festival is to oversee the activities of food premises and enforce appropriate standards, including ensuring that food handlers have adequate skills and knowledge to carry their tasks effectively. It is not unusual for people to get gastrointestinal diseases.’
‘Effective waste management is another issue and we make sure rubbish bins are provided and that these are regularly collected to reduce unsightly accumulations, odours and attracting vermin,’ he says.
Most festival goers are eating meals from temporary food establishments and drinking water from a temporary water supply. These food premises – tent, caravan or other temporary structures that are used for the preparation and sale of food – are a lesser standard compared to a permanent establishment.
‘But we can only do so much and cannot be everywhere at once so it’s important for people to take on a little responsibility to reduce the chance of contracting a stomach bug and missing out on the bands you came there for,’ Dr Earl says.
Dr Cameron Earl’s tips for having a healthy festival experience:
• Shower whenever possible, it’ll not only be a friendly gesture but it’ll help your hygiene. Also don’t eat the leftovers lying around your campsite unless they have been locked up in a refrigerator, you’re just asking for a sore stomach at that stage.
• Staying mud free may be difficult—as it always seems to rain at these things—but remember mud is a popular place for the bugs that cause infections. Washing your hands with water and soap and sanitising is the single most important thing that festival goers can do to reduce the chance of contracting a stomach bug.
• A part from not swimming in the dams if on festival sites and correctly using a rubbish bin, there is one basic thing that you can do to look after your health. Clean your hands with a sanitiser or water and soap after going to the toilet and before eating food.
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