While Chennai, which suffered the worst floods in recent history, is slowly recuperating from the catastrophe, the people in the city need to be wary of another likely crisis – plethora of health problems and epidemic outbreak imminently looming over them.
Natural calamities often leave behind a spectrum of infections and diseases in the aftermath of the disaster. Especially for hydro-meteorological calamities like the Chennai floods, the extent of afflictions from harmful bacteria and viruses could be notably high and take the size of epidemics. Poor sanitation, contaminated drinking water and insufficient personal hygiene create a favourable atmosphere for diseases to overpower the distraught people.
Floods are marked with disruption of sewage systems, which leads to the water tables underground becoming polluted with fecal remains and other toxic chemical discharges, resulting in the contamination of drinking water. In addition, a number of people are rendered homeless in the Chennai floods. These masses have found shelter in emergency camps and buildings with an over-pouring crowd. Such overcrowded spaces are the breeding grounds for communicable diseases, affecting hundreds and thousands of people with low immunity power.
Most common post-flood diseases and health problems are:
- Intestinal infections such as cholera, diarrhoea: Intake of inhygienic food and water contaiminated with foetal mix and others may lead to gastrointestinal infections.
Malaria: Floodwater stagnation is a breeding ground for mosquitoes causing malaria.
Tetanus: Open untreated wounds may attract the tetanus virus attack.
Respiratory ailments: Airborne germs such as bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms breeding in overcrowded or damp spaces may cause respiratory problems.
- Leptospirosis: Human beings exposed to animal urine-contaminated water may suffer multiple bacterial attacks
Vulnerable environmental conditions and lagging immunization make certain regions, especially in developing countries like India, susceptible to epidemics after a disaster. A few precautions and timely vaccinations may reduce the chances of the outbreak of sanitation-related diseases.
Precautions and preventive measures:
- Drink only boiled or purified water. Use chlorine tablets for disinfection of stored water or wells swept by flood waters.
- Do not consume any frozen or refrigerated food that is kept at room temperature for over 2 hours. Compulsarily avoid stale, over-exposed, or damaged canned foods. “When in doubt, throw it out” – Follow this thumb rule for food consumption.
- Maintain highest personal hygiene and cleanliness – Wash hands with soaps and sanitizers before preparing or eating food; for infants, clean feeding spoons, bowls, bottles and nipples with boiled or purified water each time before use; wash all utensils and counter tops and shelves properly with soaps and warm water, and sanitize utensils in chlorinated water for 1 minute for disinfection.
- Place food and water sources in safe positions to avoid rodent attack. Discard garbage and waste materials at the earliest. Remove animal carcasses, if any in the proximity of the household, immediately by contacting the local municipal authorities.
- After the floodwater has subsided, disinfect the entire house and safety tanks to avoid poisoning through toxic leftovers from the flood.
- Go for preventive vaccination to increase your immunity against the possible outbreak of flood-induced diseases.
In case of any infection and health problem, consult expert doctors on DocsApp by downloading the mobile health app from http://app.docsapp.in. DocsApp is offering free doctor consultation to Chennai residents. Call helpline 08039515152 to get free consultation.