Water borne-diseases

JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH

It has been raining heavily for some weeks now. Homes have been flooded and many have been displaced. Unfortunately, these are not the only disadvantages of the heavy downpours. The rainy season increases the chance of getting some diseases whether you have been displaced from your home or not. Let us find out.

Water borne diseases

These are diseases that are caused by pathogens such as bacteria or viruses as a result of ingesting or drinking water contaminated or water with feces. Ordinarily, no human will intentionally consume water that has fecal matter but certain behaviours unintentionally allow for such practices. For others, they do not have access to clean and safe water while a majority of individuals fail to practice good hygiene in and outside their homes. Below are a few waterborne diseases that you should be on the lookout for:

1. Cholera

Cholera is a diarrheal disease that is caused by the bacterium vibrio cholerae. People get cholera when they ingest foods contaminated with bacteria. Cholera is usually mild or without symptoms but 1 in 10 people will go on to develop fatal symptoms hours or days after being exposed to the bacteria.

Symptoms of cholera

· Vomiting

· Profuse watery Diarrhea is often known as “rice-water stools”.

· Nausea

· Thirst

· Muscle cramps

Cholera can easily be prevented especially among travelers. Always wash your hands with clean soap and water before eating and after using the washroom. Thoroughly cook your foods and eat them whilst they are hot. Always eat fruits that can be washed and peeled such as bananas, watermelons, especially when travelling. Eat vegetables from sources that are clean and hygienic.

Individuals who experience severe symptoms from cholera can develop kidney failure due to severe dehydration. This may worsen to a shock, coma, or even death within hours of exposure to the contaminants.

Fecal matter from such persons should be safely disposed of and persons taking care of them should thoroughly wash their hands to prevent contaminating other surfaces.

2. Typhoid fever

This is also a bacterial infection caused by Salmonella typhi. It is highly contagious and can be transferred from one person to another via eating or drinking food contaminated with just a little amount of bacteria. If someone else eats food or drinks water that's been contaminated with a small amount of infected fecal matter or urine, they can become infected with the bacteria and develop typhoid fever. About 20 million people worldwide have been infected with typhoid fever.

When detected early, the use of antibiotics can clear them within a period of about 7-14 days.

Symptoms of typhoid fever

· An increasing temperature that won’t go away- fever

· Headache

· Extreme tiredness

· Diarrhea or constipation

Without treatment, symptoms may persist for weeks or even a month. It is advisable to visit a clinic should the symptoms worsen.

In some countries, there are vaccines available, especially for individuals who want to travel to regions with poor sanitation and unsafe water. Typhoid fever is highly contagious hence, drinking water especially must be clean and safe from residues of feces or urine.

3. Giardia

This is popularly known as the swimming pool infection. It is a waterborne disease that is spread through contaminated water such as ponds, streams, swimming pools, and more. Unlike the above, this is caused by a parasite and it is spread by drinking contaminated water with the parasite or in foods. In swimming pools infected with the parasite, individuals obtain it when they accidentally swallow the water in the pool. The parasites affect the intestines of the affected individual.

Symptoms of Giardia

· Pains in the abdomen

· Diarrhea

· Cramps

· Bloating

The key to avoiding most of these infections is to practise good hygiene by washing your hands with soap and clean water. In addition, people who frequent public swimming pools must use only those that are treated or avoid swallowing the water while swimming. To be on a safer side, it is good to drink bottled water.

4. Dysentery

This is an infection of the intestine that cause results in bloody diarrhea. Dysentery can be caused by either a bacterium - Shigella or a parasite - parasite Entamoeba histolytica although the bacteria infection is the most common.

Dysentery may be transmitted when you eat food from an infected person. This is how it works: When an infected person does not properly wash their hands during cooking, they spread it into their food. Sometimes, you will pick it up from public door knobs or sinks. Others may get the infection when they swim in contaminated water bodies such as pools or lakes.

Symptoms of the bacterium infection

· Blood in the diarrhea

· Stomach cramps

· Fever

· Nausea and vomiting

· Weight loss

Dysentery can be avoided if you properly wash your hands and avoid eating from unsafe places. If possible, drink clean water preferably bottled water.

WHO states that about 1.8 million people use water contaminated with feces in the world. Waterborne diseases do not only occur during the rainy season. However, the rains provide more avenues for these infections to be easily accessed and transmitted. Proper handwashing coupled with good sanitation is the main tool in effectively preventing them. Eat from hygienic places and avoid overcrowded water bodies. While some infections of these pathogens may be mild, others will experience severe symptoms.

The good news is that when detected early, a good round of antibiotics or antiparasitics can clear them from the body. Guard your immune system and stay healthy!

References

1. Center for Disease Control. Cholera. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/cholera/illness.html#:~:text=Cholera%20is%20an%20acute%20diarrheal,be%20severe%20and%20life%2Dthreatening.

2. WebMD. Dysentery. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/what-is-dysentery#091e9c5e81d55616-1-2

3. WHO. Water. Retrieved from https://www.afro.who.int/health-topics/water

Health

JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH

A young lady who is excited to influence the society and world with the knowledge she has acquired.