Receding waters leave vector-borne diseases in their wake

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 12 Feb 2017

PETALING JAYA: As floodwaters recede for the season, the danger may not be over yet for those affected.

This is because the muddy waters leave in their wake health threats brought by water- and vector-borne diseases such as respiratory tract infection, gastroenteritis and even leptospirosis.

While the Health Department has been able to take steps to keep such threats from recent floods under control, Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam confirmed that there had since been three cases of leptospirosis in Kelantan.

Although the department did not release any death statistics from diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery, it is greatly concerned about these illnesses that could cause death.

“These diseases are caused by consuming contaminated water and food, which is why it is important to use potable water for personal hygiene and food preparation,” said Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

A multitude of water-borne diseases brought in by floodwaters, he said, were a result of contamination from broken sewage systems, animal wastes and chemical pollution.

However, compared with those after the big floods that swept the east coast states in 2014, the number of post-flood disease cases has been significantly lower.

According to the department, there was a drastic reduction in cases such as acute gastroenteritis (AGE), acute respiratory illnesses (ARI) and leptospirosis (rat urine disease) in the recent floods that started in early Decem­ber.

The number of ARI cases dropped from 8,276 in 2014 to 1,439 in the current period, while there were only 162 cases of AGE this season compared to 1,062 then.

Statistics also showed that there were 379 leptospirosis cases in flood-hit areas during the 2014 disaster while it was only recently confirmed by the minister there were three this season.

Dr Noor Hisham said most of the communicable diseases encountered during the recent floods were isolated cases of ARI and skin infection but there had been no outbreak of cholera or dengue.

He linked the drop in cases to the preventive measures carried out by the health department before, during and after the floods.

One of them was to treat flood victims at evacuation centres and at the same time conduct early detection of any communicable diseases.

The team also inspected facilities for food preparation and monitored wells and sanitation.

“The education programme on how to prevent communicable diseases also helped,” he added.

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