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Preventing water-borne diseases in flooded areas nationwide

Many villagers have faced problems accessing clean water following recent heavy rains and fl ooding in Oudomxay province, with concerns that contaminated water will lead to health problems. In addition, southern provinces of Laos also experienced flooding with the recent Sonca storm.

The possible infections during this time include hepatitis A, typhoid, leptospirosis, cholera, and athlete's foot.

Risks increased with reduced access to clean water and sanitation.

It is necessary for people to avoid or minimise contact with floodwater as much as possible.

A recent flood in Thin village, Xay district, Oudomxay province.
--Photo Facebook@chaleunxay khotvong

In addition, rainfall can also increase the population of mosquitoes as they lay their eggs in stagnant water. Normally, mosquitoes can spread disease through their bites. According to the World Health Organisation, some common mosquito-borne diseases include dengue fever, malaria, Zika virus and Chikungunya virus.

A resident of Thin village, Xay district, Mr Chaleunxay, said while his house was not flooded, his rice field was now underwater. Many clean water systems were damaged by flooding.

In addition, almost all public facilities in Xay district, including electricity, roads, and other facilities were also cut.

To ensure all people in flood-affected areas stay healthy, Director of the National Centre for Environmental Health and Water Supply, Dr Southsakhone Chanthaphone, advised the public to boil water from wells, artisan wells and gravity-fed water systems before drinking and using it.

People in flood-affected areas are also advised to wash their hands with clean water and soap, prepare and eat clean food, boil drinking water and prevent mosquito bites.

“The best way to ensure that the water is safe to drink is to have it tested by health officials,” he added. In addition to boiling, filtering and treating the water with chlorine (a chemical used to kill bacteria) is necessary before drinking it.

In addition, the Vientiane Health Department, has also warned members of the public to be careful when picking wild mushrooms in wet season. People are advised eating only those that are known to be non-toxic or seeking expert advice if in doubt.

Rural people are at greater risk of illness or infection from diseases such as diarrhoea, typhoid and dysentery, but city dwellers should not be complacent.

Urbanites are also at greater risk of dengue fever than people living in rural areas, as the number of dengue mosquitoes is higher in more populated urban locations. So far this wet season, dengue cases have been increasing every week.

To combat dengue fever, the public is advised to remove rubbish and other items which can collect water from around their home or to regularly empty them, thereby reducing the number of places where mosquitoes can lay their eggs and breed. If these activities are practiced every week, it will help to keep the dengue virus at bay. Sleeping inside a mosquito net is another way to help ward off dengue, malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.

People should also avoid walking in stagnant water in flooded areas to help reduce the risk of contacting infections such as athlete's foot and leptospirosis.

At this time of the year, every week, provincial epidemiological staff send a report of all disease incidences to the National Centre for Laboratory and Epidemiology. The centre then forwards this information to the Hygiene and Health Promotion Department of the Ministry of Health which after that assigns the related sectors to take measures and actions according to local circumstances.

By Xayxana Leukai
(Latest Update August 10, 2017)

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