Recent torrential rain and flooding have lead to devastation in many communities across Trinidad and Tobago. Unfortunately, with flooding comes much contamination and health issues are likely to arise and continue long after the floodwaters recede. Over the next few months, a range of physical and psychological health problems will continue to affect the already devastated communities. Stress, depression and anxiety are the first major worry, but physical health problems like dermatitis, worsening asthma, chest infections and mosquito borne viruses will also become an issue.
Floodwaters bring dirty water, mud and silt into homes, backyards, streets and parks. Walking through these areas can cause many skin and soft tissue infections. It is recommended that any cut or scratch exposed to the water or environment during this time be immediately cleaned and covered to avoid infections. If any cut becomes painful and red, or you develop a fever, you should go to the nearest health center to seek medical attention. Here are a few water borne diseases that you should be wary of:
Typhoid fever is an acute illness, spread by contaminated food and water. Symptoms include lasting fever, headache, weakness, stomach pains and loss of appetite. Try eating safe foods and don’t have anything that may look slightly off.
Lasting approximately two hours to five days, cholera is identified by profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting which result in an extreme loss of fluid or electrolytes in the body. Cholera is a bacterial disease usually spread through contaminated water and it is treated with rehydration therapy and antimicrobials.
This is an epidemic contracted from animals. The bacteria known as Leptospira, is present in the urine of animals such as mice and cows. If you experience sudden onset fever, headaches and bodily chills, this may appeal to you. Leptospirosis can also anywhere from two to 28 days.
Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite and can be transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes. If you’re experiencing fever, chills, sweats, head and body aches as well as nausea, you may need to seek medical attention.
This is a mosquito borne disease, classified by high fever, severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. There is no specific medicine to treat dengue fever, but your doctor may suggest that you drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Doctors may recommend painkillers like Tylenol, but try to avoid pain relievers that can increase bleeding complications—such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
This is a viral infection also spread by a particular type of mosquito, some symptoms are, fever, backache, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. There is no specific cure for yellow fever, but with round the clock self care are staying hydrated, your body may be able to fight it off.
The mud brought by floodwater may also make surfaces such as footpaths, roads and floors very slippery. Falls are not unusual during this time, and it is advised to take caution while executing clean up efforts. Using appropriate shoes and even some type or walking stick can help in this time.
Advice when cleaning up:
Wash your hands thoroughly after a clean up session. Do not prepare food or eat before.
Do not use gas-powered or diesel-powered equipment in enclosed spaces.
Wear a mask when working with heavy mould
Be alert to any rats, snakes or wildlife that may have taken residence in your home during this time, they can be harmless, harmful or even carry diseases.
After a flood, it is more than likely that your water supply has become contaminated. The age-old practice for purifying water is to boil it—it’s the most effective method and it’s very inexpensive. To do this you need a heat source and a vessel to hold the water. To properly purify the water, you should bring it to a boil and let it roll for one minute.
After a flood, many may not have access to a heat source or even a vessel to boil the water. Another purification practice is to use household bleach that contains no perfumes or dyes. To do this, you use a large container and use FIVE DROPS of bleach to every TWO LITRES of water. The solution needs to stand for 30 minutes before safe to drink. This method however, does not kill pathogens in water, and while useful in an emergency, you should try boiling water where possible.