Kerala Floods: Prevention Of Water-borne Diseases

Kerala faces its worst monsoon ever in 100 years and the death toll has crossed 350. Adding onto this, the flood-hit state is already grappling with vector-borne diseases like chikungunya and dengue. The public health experts are warning of an outbreak of typhoid, cholera, hepatitis and leptospirosis.

According to the Directorate of Health Services (DHS), Kerala, the state has already recorded 225 cases of leptospirosis, 846 cases of dengue fever, 518 cases of malaria, 34 cases of chikungunya, and 191,945 cases of acute diarrhoeal disease (ADD).

Kerala Floods: Prevention Of Water-borne Diseases

Read on to know about the water-borne diseases caused by floods.

1. Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by infection with Leptospira bacteria. This bacteria is passed on from animals to humans through urine, and can be found in the soil and water during the floods. Leptospira can enter the human's body through the eyes, open wounds or mucous membranes.

Symptoms Of Leptospirosis

The signs and symptoms usually appear 5 to 14 days after the infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC, the time between a person's exposure to a contaminated source and becoming sick is 2 days to 4 weeks.

These are the symptoms:

  • Rash
  • Diarrhoea
  • Red eyes
  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice
  • Vomiting
  • Chills 
  • Muscle aches

In a more severe case, the disease can lead to kidney or liver failure or meningitis. The illness lasts from a few days to 3 weeks or longer.

Treatment For Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics which includes doxycycline and penicillin. In the case of severe symptoms, antibiotics could be administered intravenously.

Tips to avoid leptospirosis

  • Washing hands with soap and water after handling animals.
  • Controlling pests
  • Don't touch dead animals with bare hands.
  • Clean all the open wounds and cover them with waterproof dressings.
  • After flooding, avoid swimming and wading and shower at once after exposure. 
  • Avoid consuming anything that has been in contact with flood water.
  • Ensure that your dogs have been vaccinated against leptospirosis.

2. Hepatitis A

The outbreak of hepatitis A is usually recorded after flood-related sewage contamination of water sources. Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It spreads from infected food or water.

Symptoms Of Hepatitis A

The symptoms include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low fever
  • Joint pain
  • Dark urine
  • Jaundice
  • Intense itching

Treatment For Hepatitis A

No specific treatment is there for hepatitis A, however, following these safety precautions will prevent the infection.

  • Avoid eating raw and undercooked food.
  • Peel and wash fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink bottled water.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before eating.

3. Cholera

Cholera is an acute epidemic infectious disease caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae living in shallow and salty water. This bacterial disease causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration.

Symptoms Of Cholera

The symptoms appear between 12 hours and 5 days after exposure which include the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Leg cramps
  • Large volumes of explosive watery diarrhoea
  • Dehydration

Treatment Of Cholera

Excessive dehydration of the body leads to death from cholera. So, treating cholera with oral hydration solution (ORS) is the best treatment. With proper care and treatment the fatality rate should be 1 per cent.

Tips to avoid cholera infection

According to the CDC, these are the following precautionary measures.

  • Store treated water in a clean container.
  • Boil the water, if using a tap water.
  • Drink bottled water and use it to brush your teeth, wash and prepare food.
  • Wash your hands with soap and clean water.
  • Use latrines and avoid defecating in any body of water.
  • Cook your food well and keep it covered.

4. Typhoid

It is an acute fever caused by the Salmonella typhi bacteria which is contracted by consuming contaminated food or water. The bacteria can survive in dirty water or dried sewage for weeks.

Symptoms Of Typhoid

Signs and symptoms of typhoid start between 6 to 30 days after exposure to bacteria. The major symptoms are typhoid fever which increases to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, along with rashes.

The other symptoms are:

  • Weakness
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches

Treatment Of Typhoid

The only effective treatment is antibiotics, and the commonly used ones are ciprofloxacin for non-pregnant ladies and ceftriaxone.

Tips to avoid typhoid

  • Avoid drinking untreated water and eating raw fruits and vegetables.
  • Ensure all the food is cooked properly and served steaming hot. 
  • Frequently wash your hands in warm and soapy water.

Health experts and doctors have said that hygiene should be maintained to keep diseases at bay and vaccination in flood-affected areas can prevent the outbreak of these communicable diseases.

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    Read more about: kerala flood diseases
    Story first published: Monday, August 20, 2018, 11:35 [IST]
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