You can get waterborne diseases from drinking polluted water, bathing or washing in it, or when you use this water for preparing food.
Today, nearly 1.1 billion people do not have access to clean water and 2.4 billion people cannot avail hygienic sanitation. All this contributes to water pollution. And that is why nearly 300 million people, especially children in developing nations become victims of waterborne diseases every year.
Which diseases do waterborne pathogens trigger?
Of the plethora of illnesses, the following are the most prevalent diseases caused by contaminated water–
It is a severe form of diarrhoea and is caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholera. Cholera is the result of poor sanitation, inadequate sewage, a flawed human waste disposal system, war and famine. The WHO records 150,000 cases of cholera every year.
Its symptoms are-
- Spiked heart rate
- The mucous membranes inside the nose, mouth, throat and eyes dry up
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle cramps
- Relentless defecation
If left untreated, cholera can lead to dehydration and even death.
- Use chemically disinfected or boiled water for drinking, washing and cooking
- Avoid peeled fruits and vegetables sold by vendors and unpasteurized milk
- Always wash vegetables or fruits before peeling them
Cholera is treatable with antibiotics and electrolytes, administered intravenously. But because it is highly contagious, you need to be cautious while dealing with people who have cholera.
There are two types of dysentery- amoebic and bacillary, both of which are caused by polluted water or food and poor sanitation. This disease is very common in tropical countries.
Antiparasitic medicines and antibiotics can effectively cure amoebic and bacillary dysentery respectively.
Its symptoms are:
- Painful stomach cramps
- Blood in the faeces
The moment you notice the signs of dysentery, you must start drinking water copiously to avoid dehydration.
If you do not take immediate action, dysentery can lead to other complications like extreme dehydration, post-infectious arthritis, liver abscess, anaemia, drop in platelet count and eventually kidney failure.
- Wash your hands before consuming food
- Drink water that comes from reliable sources. Use boiled water for washing, cleaning and cooking
- Eat thoroughly cooked food
- Do not use ice cubes because their source can be dubious.
Commonly known as viral or bacterial stomach flu, it is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach and intestine. It can easily be cured with over the counter oral rehydration drinks and antibiotics. In severe cases, hospitalization and intravenous liquids might be necessary.
Gastroenteritis is especially common in children.
Its symptoms are:
- Watery stool
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle ache
- Dehydration and dizziness
- Wash your hands thoroughly before meals and after you use the washroom
- Use clean utensils
- Drink and use sterilized or boiled water
- All children should be given the rotavirus vaccine
- If your children have contracted stomach flu, don’t send them to school as they could pass it on to the other children
Typhoid is one of the most lethal waterborne diseases. It spreads through polluted water and food, abysmal sanitation and through contact with people who have come down with this illness. It affects nearly 26 million people in developing nations. Antibiotics are very effective in killing the Salmonella typhi bacteria that cause typhoid and once consumed, a person starts recovering in a couple of days.
The symptoms of typhoid are:
- Gradually worsening fever
- Muscle cramps
- Constant sweating
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Loss of appetite
As the disease progresses, the individual becomes delirious, begins to hallucinate and eventually becomes comatose. If not treated in time, typhoid can cause pneumonia, pancreatitis intestinal perforation, kidney and bladder infections, inflammation of the heart and even death.
Only extensive and concerted cleanliness and better sanitation drives by governments all over the world can completely eradicate typhoid. But there are a few measures that we can adopt to reduce our risk of getting this deadly disease such as below–
- Wash your hands after defecation and before eating or cooking. Use hand sanitizers if water isn’t available
- While travelling, only drink bottled water that has not been tampered with and abstain from drinking fruit juices from the roadside shops
- Do not consume fruits or vegetables that are sold raw or peeled
- When you are dining out, always opt for steaming hot food
If you are travelling abroad and want advice on how you can immunize yourself from waterborne illnesses, you can consult a doctor on MediBuddy.
Taking precautionary measures is the best way to banish waterborne diseases. Cleanliness, improved waste disposal systems and sanitation can drastically reduce one’s chances of contracting these diseases.