Be aware of what comes after a flood! Know more to help others.

Flooding can be associated with a lot of water and vector borne ailments. You might have heard many medical terms being thrown around after a calamity like a flood, read on to know more.

Do keep in mind, safeguarding your own health should be your first priority. After all, you can help others in need only when you are at your healthy best!

Cholera

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection, contracted by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Symptoms include profuse watery diarrhoea and vomiting. Rapid loss of body fluids can lead to dehydration and shock, and without treatment, death can occur within hours.

Prevention and treatment 
  • Avoid water and food contamination and maintain hygiene. Cholera vaccine can be administered for prevention.
  • Common treatment is replacement of lost fluids and electrolytes using oral rehydration solution (ORS) or salt and sugar solution in boiled water if the latter is not available. Severe cases may require intravenous fluids and antibiotics.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is inflammation of the liver caused by the virus hepatitis A. The first signs of illness can appear between 15-45 days of exposure. Symptoms are largely flu-like: fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, low-grade fever, pale stools, and dark urine. Skin and eyes may also become yellow because the liver is unable to process the bilirubin in the blood.

Prevention and treatment 
  • Maintaining hygiene and avoiding food and water contamination are the preventive methods.
  • Outside food consumption should also be avoided.
  • Vaccination for Hepatitis A can be administered.
  • Treatment involves rest, and avoiding alcohol and fatty/oily foods.
  • Recovery generally takes three to six months.

Typhoid

Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhi. Persons with typhoid fever usually have a sustained fever as high as 103° to 104° F (39° to 40° C). They may also feel weak, or have stomach pains, headache, or loss of appetite. Blood tests for typhoid can be done to establish the diagnosis.

Prevention and treatment
  • Avoid contaminated food and water.
  • Get vaccinated against Typhoid fever.
  • Typhoid fever is treated with antibiotics.
  • Choices for antibiotic therapy include fluoroquinolones (for susceptible infections), ceftriaxone, and azithromycin.

Leptospirosis

It is caused by exposure to water contaminated with animal urine. The symptoms are high fever, severe headaches, muscle pain, chills and vomiting.

Prevention and treatment
  • Identifying and controlling the source of infection (e.g. open sewers, contaminated wells), selective rodent control may be important, wearing protective clothes and equipment, disinfecting contaminated surfaces such as floors, walls etc.
  • Tablet Doxycycline 200mg in one weekly dose can be taken for treatment.
  • Intravenous antibiotics may be required for persons with more severe symptoms.

Dengue and malaria

Flooding can lead to excessive breeding of mosquitoes due to accumulated water and overcrowding resulting in increased number of Malaria and dengue cases. Symptoms include fever, chills, headaches, muscle pain, and anaemia, mild bleeding manifestation (e.g., nose or gum bleed, petechiae, or easy bruising in case of dengue.)

Prevention and treatment
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants and apply personal insect repellent, continuous covering of all stored water containers, removal or destruction of solid debris where water can collect (e.g., bottles, tires, tins)
  • Chloroquine 500 mg per oral once/week can be taken for malaria.

Visit an emergency room or the closest health care provider immediately  if any of the following warning signs appear:

  • Severe abdominal pain or persistent vomiting
  • Red spots or patches on the skin
  • Bleeding from nose or gums
  • Vomiting blood
  • Black, tarry stools (feces, excrement)
  • Drowsiness or irritability
  • Pale, cold, or clammy skin
  • Difficulty breathing

Acute respiratory tract infections (ARI)

In the aftermath of floods, infections of the respiratory tract are usually among the most common causes of morbidity and mortality in survivors. The increased risk of respiratory tract infections is due to the loss of shelter and exposure to flood waters and rain.

Prevention and treatment
  • Avoid overcrowding and maintain hygiene.
  • Regular hand washing with soap especially before and after meals is recommended.
  • Flu vaccination can be taken to avoid flu like conditions.

Skin and eye infections

Skin and eye infections often occur as a result of direct contact with polluted water. These include wound infections, dermatitis and conjunctivitis.

Prevention and treatment
  • Cleanliness and hygiene are of utmost importance.
  • Topical medications that combine anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties are the most suitable medications to combat this.
 All open wounds to be disinfected and tetanus vaccines to be administered for prevention.
 
Note – These are the common treatments, but one should always consult a doctor before proceeding with any medication.