The weather is changing and the traditional November rain has arrived. We can feel the cool breeze and the quality of the air is improving. However, high rainfall can cause widespread flooding, and stagnant water can be a breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria as well as mosquitoes, increasing the transmission of a number of communicable diseases.
Direct contact with polluted water carries a high risk of infection by waterborne diseases such as dermatitis, conjunctivitis, and ear, nose and throat or wound infections. Eating or drinking anything contaminated by floodwater can cause diarrhea. One particular infection that can cause an outbreak that spreads directly from contaminated water is leptospirosis, a zoonotic bacterial disease—transmission occurs when water, damp soil or mud contaminated with rodent urine comes in direct contact with the skin or mucosal membranes.
Flooding may lead to an increase in the indirect transmission of diseases via the expansion in the number and range of breeding grounds for organisms that transmit pathogens or parasites. Standing water caused by heavy rainfall or river overflows can serve as breeding sites for mosquitoes, and thus increase the chances of exposure to infections such as dengue, malaria, chikungunya or Japanese encephalitis. Flooding may initially flush out mosquito breeding, but it comes back in force when the waters recede.
Prevention and Control
Basic precautions should be taken by people travelling to or living near risk areas. To protect yourself, your family, and your community:
- Always maintain good hygiene (handwashing) after contact with flood water.
- Do not allow children to play in flood water areas.
- Wash children’s hands frequently (always before meals).
- Do not allow children to play with toys that have been contaminated by flood water and have not been disinfected.
The proximity of mosquito breeding sites to human habitation is a significant risk factor for diseases that these species transmit. Disrupting the mosquito life cycle and habitat may reduce the number of mosquitoes around you and your environment.
- Find and remove any puddles of water or standing water around your home to reduce breeding sites.
- Puncture unusable tires in the yard to prevent pools of water from forming inside them.
- Wipe out your bird-bath and pet water bowls every few days.
- Keep grass and shrubs trimmed short; this will reduce places for flying mosquitoes to rest.
- Consider adding mosquito fish to your water garden or small pond if it’s not connected to natural water.
- During outbreaks, insecticides may be sprayed to kill flying mosquitoes.
To prevent mosquito bites:
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
- Use an appropriate insect repellent as directed to exposed skin or on clothing.
- Always follow product directions and re-apply in strict accordance with product label instructions.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
- Follow package directions when applying repellent on children. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes, and mouth.
- Stay and sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms.
- Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.
- Mosquito coils or other insecticide vaporizers may also reduce indoor biting.
Open wounds and rashes exposed to flood water can become infected. How can we prevent this?
- Always wear slippers or shoes when walking along flood or stagnant water.
- Avoid exposure to flood water if you have an open wound.
- Cover clean, open wounds with a waterproof bandage to reduce chances of infection.
- Keep open wounds as clean as possible by washing well with soap and clean water.
- If a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, seek immediate medical attention.
We should all be safety-conscious. Wear appropriate footwear that allows better traction; don’t wear shoes or slippers that have worn, smooth soles or high heels during the rainy weather. Being alert and responsible for our surroundings is the surest way to reduce these different diseases.
Dr. Elvie Joy Atanque-Basa
Pediatrician—Family Medical Practice Danang