A man wanders into Coffs Creek this week despite suggestions the waterway is linked to an outbreak of boils. Photo:TREVOR VEAL
A man wanders into Coffs Creek this week despite suggestions the waterway is linked to an outbreak of boils. Photo:TREVOR VEAL

Is Coffs Creek crook?

By BELINDA SCOTT

KEITH Frost was not surprised when he read the story in Wednesday's Coffs Coast Advocate about an outbreak on boils in the local Aboriginal community.

He's not an Aboriginal, but he knows all too well what it is like to suffer from boils.

Mr Frost, who was taken to the hospital emergency department by his boss on Wednesday because he was in such acute pain, said the skin infection began about five days ago and worsened, progressing from an itch to a rash then boils in his groin, thighs and now his stomach.

Mr Frost, who claims never to have had boils before, said the doctor who saw him in emergency told him he was the first non-Aboriginal person he had seen with the same skin complaint that has been afflicting the Aboriginal community.

Like a number of patients who visited Galambila Aboriginal Health Service in January, Mr Frost has a Coffs Creek connection.

He said he began setting crab pots in Coffs Creek about three weeks ago, wading waist-deep in the creek every day or every second day to check the pots.

One of Mr Frost's work colleagues suggested that new developments upstream around Coffs Creek and heavy rains may have disturbed chemicals lodged in the clay or subsoil from old activities like banana growing and timber milling.

Coffs Harbour's Donna Oxborough, who is on her second course of antibiotics for a boil-like skin infection, said it began from a flea bite, but that was healing until she waded into Coffs Creek three weeks ago.

Ms Oxborough said she has a friend with six boils, one of which has required surgery and whose brother and nephew also developed boils after swimming in Coffs Creek.

Ms Oxborough said she took her small children swimming at the Coffs Creek barbecue area near the railway bridge and her seven-year-old daughter had complained of the smell.

"It reeked with a smell like sewerage. We're going to Boambee from now on," she said.

The acting manager of environmental services for Coffs Harbour City Council, Chris Foley, who arrived only four months ago, said he was not aware of any testing for chemical contamination of Coffs Creek.

Mr Foley said fortnightly testing of the creek in January did not show levels of e-coli or enterococci above ANZUS standards for recreational water.

Dr Helen Palmer from Galambila Aboriginal Health Service in Coffs Harbour said early this week a common factor in a number of Aboriginal patients with skin conditions in January was that they had all swum in Coffs Creek.

But others have no Coffs Creek connection.

A Safety Beach woman who did not want to be identified, said she risked losing her job because she could neither sit nor drive.

She has had four boils on her leg lanced and is on her fifth course of antibiotics.

Her son has had a total of 50 boils and he is on his sixth course of antibiotics and she knew at least another eight non-Aboriginal people with boils.

"The hospital is my second home ? no one seems able to get the medication right," she said.

Meeting minutes tabled at Thursday's Coffs Harbour City Council meeting, included a report noting that members of the Aboriginal community had been concerned about water quality in Pipe Clay Lagoon at Corindi, since some local residents had developed boils after swimming in it.

David Greenhalgh from the Marine Parks Authority advised the council's Coastal Estuary Management Advisory Committee that Marine Parks had inspected the lagoon but could detect nothing unusual or different about the water.



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