Health tips for flood, post-flood challenges

Mohammed Shahiduzzaman | Update:

Floods have hit northern and southern regions of the country for the second time, dislocating public life in these areas. The people and the animals are likely to face enormous sufferings. Diseases invariably emerge during and after the floods.

These are mostly water and insect-borne diseases. With garbage, human and animal faeces and the entire sewerage system becoming merging, germs easily spread everywhere. Infectious diseases spread rapidly.

During and after floods, fever, colds, diarrhoea, cholera, blood dysentery, typhoid, paratyphoid, viral hepatitis, stomach ailments, worms, skin diseases and other such problems taken on epidemic form. According to the World Health Organisation, about 70 per cent of the diseases that affect people, come from animals. Even pet cats and dogs can cause disease. The urine of rats and cows cause leptospirosis. And cat faeces can lead to toxoplasmosis, causing pregnant women to have accidental abortions. Dog and rat bites can cause rabies. Fungal diseases and itching is caused by contact with the water and mud. Insects increase in number after floods. These cause dengue, chikungunya, malaria, and diarrhoea.

During floods, many animals are injured and have wounds, festering with flies and other insects. This dehydrates the cows.

Livestock are also afflicted with foot and mouth disease, lump jaw, leptospirosis and other diseases. Poultry and goats also face many ailments. Parasitic diseases and worms increase. Wet wool on sheep also causes skin infections. Fungal growth in animal fodder reduces the nutrition value and taste of the food, sometimes even rendering it toxic, damaging the animal’s liver. Cow hoofs are infected in the mud. Bacteria multiplies in profusion in the damp, leading to pneumonia and diarrhoea of the livestock.

Pure drinking water is essential to avoid water-borne diseases. Clean water must be used for all purposes. The water of wells, tubewells and other sources inundated with flood water carries germs and must not be used. Flood water must be avoided as much as possible and not used for bathing and washing clothes and utensils. Such water shouldn’t be used for livestock either.

It is best to boil flood water before use. The water should be kept standing in a vessel and when sediment settles at the bottom, the top water can be poured into another vessel and then boiled. If there is a fuel crisis and the water can’t be boiled, chlorine can be used to purify it.

If water from tube-wells is to be used, it must be treated with bleaching powder. If that is not available, then water must first be pumped out from the tubewell for an hour and then the water that comes after that can be used.

The rotting carcasses of animals also spread stench and diseases. The dead animals must be buried three metres under the ground and should not be touched with bare hands. Faeces of humans and animals must be disposed of at a distance.

Temporary latrines can be set up. The government and non-government organisations need to distribute water purification tablets, alum, mosquito coils, saline, soap, disinfectants, and essential drugs. Alongside public awareness, the shelters must be visited by health workers and veterinary workers.

Deworming medicines must be administered to people and animals alike after the floods, expect or infants under two years of age.

Snakes and rats are driven by the floods to human habitats and so both snake bites and rodent bites increase. Non-poisonous snakes are harmless but if a poisonous snake bites, a cloth must be tied tightly above the wound and the victims rushed to hospital where anti-venom and anti-tetanus vaccine must be administered. Even rat bites must not be neglected and a physician should be consulted.

* Mohammed Shahiduzzaman is a professor and departmental head of the parasitology department, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh. The piece originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla print edition has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir.

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