Health impacts of water borne diseases

Cause

Water-borne diseases

Bacterial infections

Typhoid
Cholera
Paratyphoid fever
Bacillary dysentery

Viral infections

Infectious Hepatitis (jaundice)
Poliomyelitis

Protozoal infections

Amoebic dysentery

Millions of people die as a result of water borne diseases. Hepatitis, cholera, dysentery, and typhoid are the more common water-borne diseases. Consuming water that contains pathogenic microorganisms causes water borne diseases and in most developing countries, it is the main cause of childhood death, especially with diarrhea. 

Water-borne diseases are infectious diseases spread primarily through contaminated water. Though these diseases are spread either directly or through flies or filth, water is the chief medium for the spread of these diseases and hence they are termed as water-borne diseases. Other forms of transmission are dirty contaminated hands, clothes, cooking vessels, mugs, etc. and uncovered food.

Most intestinal (enteric) diseases are infectious and are transmitted through faecal waste. Pathogens – which include virus, bacteria, protozoa, and parasitic worms – are disease-producing agents found in the faeces of infected persons. These diseases are more prevalent in areas with poor sanitary conditions. These pathogens travel through water sources and interfuses directly through persons handling food and water. Since these diseases are highly infectious, extreme care and hygiene should be maintained by people looking after an infected patient.

Exposure to polluted water can cause diarrhoea, skin irritation, respiratory problems, and other serious diseases, depending on the pollutant that is in the water body. Stagnant water and other untreated water provide a habitat for the mosquito and a host of other parasites and insects that cause a large number of diseases. Among these, malaria is undoubtedly the most widely distributed and causes most damage to human health.

Ways to Avoid These Diseases

In order to prevent infectious water borne diseases, it is important to take necessary precautions. The quality of water should be improved at the source itself. In certain areas, the quality of water supply might be of question. In such cases, it is necessary to disinfect the water before use. Water that is used for all purposes like drinking, cooking, and brushing of teeth should be disinfected properly. The common household ways to avoid water borne diseases by disinfection include:

Vigorously boiling water for one minute can kill most microorganisms.

Common household items such as chlorine bleach, tincture of iodine, and iodine tablets can be used to disinfect water.

Another important measure that should be taken to avoid the spreading of pathological microorganisms is the interruption of routes of transmission such as protecting food from flies, chlorination of water, and maintaining proper sanitation, etc. It is vital to change ensure proper hygiene in order to avoid waterborne diseases.

  • Drink only filtered/bottled water.
  • Wash containers daily.
  • Keep your fingernails short and clean.
  • Use of proper toilets for defecation.
  • Wash food before cooking and cook food at high temperature so as to kill harmful bacteria.
  • Avoid flies by disposing animal and organic wastes properly.
  • Ensure to take proper care in disposing of infant and toddler feces.
  • Avoid consuming foods, fruit juices, and milkshakes from roadside vendors.
  • Always keep foods and beverages closed.
  • Rivers and creeks can be breeding grounds for bacteria; avoid swimming in such waters.
  • Washing hands is the most important method of prevention of waterborne diseases. One should wash hands before preparing food and before eating. Likewise, it is necessary to wash hands after using the toilet, changing diapers, after using handkerchief, after changing clothes or beddings soiled with feces, after caring people with water borne illness, and after playing with pets and animals.

Travelers are most likely to contract water borne illnesses, and here are certain tips that can help to lessen the chances of getting ill.

  • Ensure to drink only bottled water. Check for any sign of tampering.
  • Avoid ice cubes as these are a major source of contaminated water.
  • Avoid eating uncooked food.

To prevent the spreading of waterborne illnesses, people suffering from waterborne illness should be confined to themselves from work until symptoms have subsided.

References: http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/hygiene; http://edugreen.teri.res.in/explore/water/health; http://www.azdhs.gov/phs/oids/epi/disease/waterborne; http://www.home-remedies-for-you.com/articles/651/health-advice/water-borne-diseases-prevention

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