Feb 08, 2012 News
Freezing water does not automatically make it safe for consumption, according to Chief Medical
Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, who pointed to the importance of persons taking greater precaution with their drinking water supply in light of the increasing rainfall, which has led to inundation in some sections of the country. Flood waters, the senior health official said, can often lead to contamination of potable water, a state of affairs which often causes persons to embrace the belief that freezing their water supply could serve to make it safe for consumption.
“We know that many of the pathogen or organisms can survive in ice and as soon as that ice thaws and go into warm body temperatures those organisms can become active again and can cause diseases…” It is for this reason the Ministry of Health has been appealing to the public to not only pay close attention to their sources of drinking water but also to their hand washing and even teeth brushing activities which would be much safer with the use of treated water.
“We know that the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) has been working towards providing a good quality of water to all residents along the Coast and to many other residents but we are advising on the need for people to adhere to additional precautions…” Dr. Persaud noted.
He pointed to the need to develop the public’s ability to guard against gastroenteritis and diarrheal diseases, a risk which could increase with the consumption of unsafe water and foods that have been contaminated by flood waters or any other source of harmful organisms. “If diarrhea does occur, we are asking that persons take a lot of fluids such as safe water and other beverages that are recommended, including Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS).”
Dr. Persaud pointed to the notion that diarrhea can be fatal, especially if dehydration is a part of the process and “we are encouraging persons, particularly young children, the elderly and sick people, to seek medical attention…as a matter of fact anyone with diarrhea should report to the nearest health facility and seek treatment.”
Contact with flood waters, the Chief Medical Officer noted, has been listed as one of the risk factors identified in the outbreak of leptospirosis. He explained that this could occur when people walk in the flood waters and they do not use any protection, a situation which could result in them being subjected to cuts, bruises and scratches which could facilitate the entry of the leptospirosis organisms into the body.
“Although through the oral route is seen as the main entry, entry through wounds can lead to this fatal disease so we are asking parents, guardians and elders to keep children out of flood waters…It is not a swimming pool and while people will have to go into the water, we are advising that they wear whole shoes or long boots,” Dr Persaud asserted.
A proactive approach was engaged by the Ministry of Health last week as part of its effort to raise awareness about potential risks associated with flood waters. And according to the Chief Medical Officer, the many risks factors are not limited to the dreaded Leptospirosis, which had infected and even led to the demise of some persons back in 2005. In 2005, the country was faced with a prolonged period of heavy rainfall, and according to Dr. Persaud, the predictions this year suggest that the increasing nature of rainfalls will continue for a while.
But even with the reduction of flood waters, he pointed to the need for persons to be aware of debris in their environment which can be contaminated. In addition, he warned that persons must continue to be on the alert for pests such as rats and cockroaches that would try to seek dry ground due to the flood waters and could pose a risk factor, leading to the transmission of diseases too.
Incessant rainfalls started two weekends ago and have been causing inundation in many parts of the country, particular Regions Six, Five, Four and Three. However, Dr. Persaud noted that “the good news from the Ministry of Agriculture is that there has been improvement in drainage and the accumulation has not been extensive…nevertheless, we know that the Coast of Guyana is low lying and in most places where the population is heaviest, they are below sea level and the challenge also exists with the tide and draining the land.” As a result, there are certain health risks, the Chief Medical Officer noted, that will emerge hence the need for the Ministry to respond in a timely manner.
He disclosed plans to educate the populace of the possible risks factors, even as efforts are made to complement awareness with intervening measures to guard against looming health threats. “We, also, at this point, are putting the health system on high alert to respond to such risks and we have started to look continuously at the daily information that is generated by our health facilities to look particularly at areas like diarrheal diseases, skin infections, respiratory infections and we have commenced more astute screening of patients who present with, for example, fever syndrome.”
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