Guyana in recent years has had to battle with mosquito-borne diseases the likes of Zika, Chikungunya, and for and even longer time span, dengue. These diseases are spread by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito which is known to thrive in stagnant but relatively clean water such as rainwater settling in containers in the environment.
Given the gamut of resources, financial and otherwise, that are required to tackle these public health challenges, the Public Health Ministry is taking a proactive stance to prevention. This is especially in light of the recent incessant rainfall.
In a precautionary advisory, the Ministry noted that with the rainfall, people might begin to notice an increase in mosquitoes, but cautioned that this development is not one that should be taken lightly. In addition to advising that water stored in and around their homes is properly covered to reduce breeding sites for mosquitoes, the Ministry has also urged that persons opt to embrace other protective measures such as sleeping under mosquito nets and using mosquito repellents and coils.
The advisory which comes in wake of increased rainfall and the possibility of flooding in coastal and outlying areas, advises that members of the public pay special attention to their health, personal hygiene, vector control, food and water safety, and public health.
Moreover, persons who are living in areas that become inundated should seek to stay out of the water as much as possible, as it can greatly reduce their chance of contracting diseases such as skin infections, Leptospirosis, Diarrhea and other water-borne diseases.
Direct contact with flood waters can expose individuals to several germs that can lead to the aforementioned diseases. Children, the Ministry has informed, are most at risk of contracting diseases. As such they, as well as adults, are urged to avoid swimming in flooded canals and trenches since during the rainy season and floods these can become contaminated and result in various sicknesses.
“If you must venture into any area with flood waters, use protective gear such as long boots, gloves and eye protection,” the Ministry cautions even as it highlighted other protection measures that can be useful after trekking through a body of flood waters.
For instance, persons can prepare a foot bath [half cup of bleach to one bucket of water] and wash their feet thoroughly before entering their homes. Added to this, they can apply vaseline or oil to the skin, as it forms a barrier and provides some protection from dirty water.
The Ministry has also stressed the importance of using safe water for the purposes of drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, making ice and beverages. Safe water is water that is treated with chlorine bleach [half teaspoon to a five-gallon bucket of water, cover and let the water stand for 30 minutes before using], water boiled for at least five minutes, cool and stored in covered containers or sealed bottled water.
The washing of fruits and vegetables with treated water and peeling them before use is also being encouraged. All other food supplies should be kept from contact with any flood water as according to the advisory, flood water can contaminate food supplies including dry groceries, vegetables, fruits, cooked foods and beverages. In fact, it is urged that persons safely discard all foods that have been in contact with flood waters, by placing them in a plastic bag and depositing them in covered bins.
Also, the Ministry has advised that food should be cooked properly and consumed within two hours of preparation. Leftovers should be stored safely in a refrigerator and reheated thoroughly before consuming. It is also important, the advisory outlined, that persons should not take for granted washing their hands.
“Wash hands thoroughly with soap and safe water or use hand sanitizers, especially before eating meals, after going to the toilet or latrine, cleaning children or handling animals and contaminated materials,” the advisory highlights. It is also important that persons make use of safe toilets or latrines to defecate and avoid doing so in flood waters, drains or trenches.
The Ministry has also advised that baby’s diapers be disposed in covered bins.
“Keep garbage bins covered to prevent pests such as mosquitoes, flies, rats and roaches from entering,” the Ministry urges, in addition to the importance of ensuring that all household waste is secured and other garbage placed in plastic bags before they are stored in bins and await proper removal to approved landfill sites.
“Do not dump garbage in drains, trenches, canals and illegal dumping areas around your community,” the Ministry stated in its advisory, as it amplified the need to guard against animals coming into the home. It also added that “Rats, roaches, snakes, centipedes and other pests that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours. Keep doors and windows closed or screened to prevent them from entering your homes.”
Further, persons are encouraged to turn off the main electrical switch and unplug all appliances and move them to safe areas if their homes become inundated.
“If you suspect electrical wiring has been damaged in your home, turn off the main and have it checked by a qualified person before turning on back the power. Secure all important equipment, supplies, medicines, clothing and other items in safe spaces in your homes. Place important documents and valuables in plastic and store them in a safe place,” the Ministry has advised.
But even if all precautionary measures are taken and family members begin to experience fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rash, cuts, sticks, bruises or other conditions, they are encouraged to seek medical attention immediately.
The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation and other hospitals’ outpatient departments in areas throughout the country are all fully operational and equipped to provide adequate care, the Ministry has announced.
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