Hundreds of thousands of dead cattle ramp up disease risk in north Queensland

Hundreds of thousands of putrefying cattle carcasses and a soil-borne bacteria stirred up by heavily contaminated floodwaters have ramped up the disease risk in north Queensland.

One woman has died and nine people remain seriously ill in Townsville after becoming infected by melioidosis bacteria following unprecedented flooding that inundated thousands of homes.

Townsville Hospital's Julie Mudd says seven of the sick people remain in hospital in a stable condition, two others are being cared for at home.

"It's a very serious infection," Dr Mudd told reporters.

About one in five people who contract the infection die, however, the infection can be treated with antibiotics.

The bacteria can enter the body through a cut or a person's airway, and the elderly and children are at higher risk, Dr Mudd said.

The death in Townsville takes the flood toll to three, following the deaths of two men more than a week ago.

Police are still searching for a 35-year-old man who disappeared in floodwaters at Groper Creek, south of the city, on Friday.

Further inland, authorities are racing to dispose of hundreds of thousands of dead animals in the state's west to limit the spread of disease.

Cattle, sheep and wildlife perished in the unprecedented two-week rains, which left large swathes of the state under water.

Their rotting carcasses pose a high risk of botulism and Q fever to clean-up crews and to local water supplies in flooded communities.

Meanwhile, exhausted residents struggling to restart their lives in Townsville have also been hit with severe heatwave conditions.

Today, the maximum temperature is expected to reach 37C, about seven degrees warmer than average, the Bureau of Meteorology says.

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    Thousands have been forced from their homes. Source: 1 NEWS

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