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Water Borne Disease

  • Date Submitted: 01/05/2013 04:12 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 51.1 
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What is the main health risk after the cyclone?

The primary risk following the flooding of the delta region is the outbreak of diseases spread by contaminated water, such as diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid. Aid agencies on the ground report that flooding and broken pipes have allowed sewage, toxins and groundwater into the water supply. Lakes, rice paddies and streams are also dirty because they are littered with corpses. Stagnant water is providing a breeding ground for bacteria and mosquitoes. According to Save the Children, more than a third of deaths in previous similar disasters have been caused by waterborne diseases.

Which diseases pose the most immediate threat?

Initially, the most likely killer is acute watery diarrhoea, which causes dehydration. Those most at risk are under-fives, the sick, the old and the pregnant. Cholera, which causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting, is the next major worry. In severe cases people suffer progressive organ failure as they get weaker. It can spread rapidly in areas where there is poor sanitation because the bacterium can be spread in human faeces. There are already reports of an outbreak in the Irrawaddy delta. Other threats include typhoid and hepatitis A, both passed on by contaminated food and water. Symptoms of the former include fever, abdominal pain, appetite loss, constipation or diarrhoea. Without treatment it is fatal in 10% of cases.

What about later on?

Within two weeks there could be outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever, which are both spread by mosquitoes. The malaria parasite infects the liver and destroys red blood cells. It initially causes flu-like symptoms. There can also be diarrhoea, coughing and jaundice. Without treatment it can kill by causing anaemia and by clogging the capillaries that carry blood to the brain or other vital organs. Another threat is posed by dengue fever, which is endemic in Burma. Symptoms include fever, joint and muscle pain, nausea and vomiting. Some sufferers...


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