by Dr.Subarna Roy
Monsoons always bring cheer and hope to the primarily agrarian neighborhood of Belagavi. Unfortunately, rains also bring diseases, the prominent being food-and waterborne infections like diarrhea, dysentery, and cholera.
‘Faecal-oral’ contaminations i.e., the mixing of drinking water and/or food with human or animal excreta/stools containing the causative germs results in the spread of these diseases. Breakage/leakages in sewage and drinking water pipes in the water supply and sanitation network, open defecation, dumping of human/animal and food wastes near water sources, unhygienic habits of not washing hands before and after eating, use of improperly cleaned utensils or improperly cooked foods, etc., are major contributing factors.
Belagavi typically experiences these outbreaks between June to September. This year, with most parts of the city being dug up for underground piping work, there is an extremely high risk of outbreaks of diarrhoea/dysentery/cholera occurring due to contaminations resulting from frequent breakages of sewage and water pipelines.
As part of a series, the intent of this communication is to create awareness among Belgaumites on the impending risk of outbreaks of diarrhoeal diseases. The first of the series lists some common Do’s and Don’ts for prevention of such diseases.
DOs & DON’Ts: Tips for PREVENTION of diarrhoeal diseases
Use only safe water for drinking and cooking.
Boiling is the safest practice. Water should be boiled for 10 minutes i.e allowed to bubble and steam for some time.
For decontamination, UV treatment is suggested method (available in many medium cost water purifiers).
Purifiers/ filters that are certified to remove microbial contaminants are costly. Please note that Viruses pose a greater threat in Belgaum (as found in our previous studies) and are more difficult to kill/filter because of their smaller size.
Clean filters periodically along with all components and storage areas including those inside the filter units.
Chlorination is recommended for temporary disinfection (eg. one drop of commercially available water chlorination agent like Zeoline, etc. for every glass of water). Use this during travel or at roadside eateries.
Develop proper handwashing practices. Encourage children to clean hands appropriately.
Ensure that soaps/sanitizers are available to children in school washrooms. Sensitize teachers/ principals on this aspect.
Ensure that civic authorities chlorinate all water storage tanks and levels are monitored periodically and seriously.
Encourage the extremely poor /slum dwellers to use several folds of the sari/dhoti for filtration of water meant for drinking and cooking if access to safe water is scanty. Educate them on the importance of hygiene and sanitation practices.
Do not use untreated water for drinking or cooking. Clean water is NOT always safe water.
Do not bring down water from flame immediately upon reaching the boiling point.
Do not use unserviced or faulty water purifiers.
Do not use uncertified filters. In most cases, filters are unable to separate viruses that cause gastroenteritis.
Do not store water for long periods of time.
Do not use water from storages and tanks that are not cleaned periodically.
Avoid drinking water from unknown sources including from roadside eateries.
Do not eat or drink without handwash with soap water.
Do not provide water or outside food to exclusively breastfed children (below 6 months of age).
Do not leave food items open.
Do not allow flies and insects to come in contact with food and water.
Do not tolerate open defecation. Avoid water from sources close to open defecation.
Do not allow stray animals to defecate near water sources like deep tube wells, reservoirs, hand pumps, etc.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr.Subarna Roy, Scientist F (Deputy Director-Sr.Grade) ICMR-National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Dept of Health Research, (Govt of India), Belagavi
The author is a Scientist who has been working as a “Disease Detective” for ICMR’s institutions for the last two decades. In the last 10 years, the author has made a network of researchers, academicians, policy makers, and state health officials in North Karnataka which had been working on identification of various infectious diseases affecting the region and studying their epidemiological characteristics. He is also the founding scientist and Nodal Officer of Model Rural Health Research Unit of the Department of Health Research set up at Sirwar Village in Raichur District.
[This article is written in the personal capacity of the author]