The floods have wreaked havoc in various parts of Kerala. A few days from now, the waters would recede, leaving houses filled with water and silt, polluted wells and other water sources and decaying carcasses - all of which are sources of deadly diseases.
When safe drinking water is not available, several epidemics could spread in the flood-affected areas. There are two types of diseases that could appear in such conditions. The first category includes ailments like rat fever caused by contact with mud and illnesses transmitted through mosquitoes. The second category comprises diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, typhoid, Hepatitis A and jaundice which spread through contaminated water. Among these, jaundice is most dangerous as the symptoms may appear only a month after the pathogen has entered the blood stream.
Mosquitoes spread deadly diseases such as dengue, malaria and chikungunya. When flood waters invade human settlements, the breeding areas of mosquitoes too would be washed away. However, when the water gradually flows away, the mosquitoes would take no time to appear again.
It's very essential to avoid mosquito bites. Nets, repellent creams and coils can keep mosquitoes away. In addition, keep the premises clean. Seek the advice of a doctor even when there is a mild fever.
All wells in flood-affected areas should be chlorinated. This has to be done even in places where flood waters did not flow into the well as septic waste would have seeped into the water sources, resulting in e-coli contamination. But chlorinated water also should be used only after properly boiling it.
In some areas, chemicals pollute water sources during flooding. Residents of such locations have to depend on bottled water for some days to keep themselves safe.
Meanwhile, for brushing teeth use boiled water that has been cooled to room temperature. Similarly, use such water to make ice in the refrigerator.
Another point to remember is to ensure that water does not enter the mouth and eyes while bathing as some pathogens survive even after chlorination.
Wash your hands
By keeping your hands clean, a host of diseases can be avoided. Wash your hands at frequent intervals - not just before and after having food or while visiting the washroom.
Likewise, wash hands before preparing food and feeding infants as well as after blowing the nose, sneezing, touching a wound and cleaning a baby during bowel movements.