GEORGE TOWN: Access to clean water for drinking, cooking and washing is a top priority for victims after a flood recedes, says Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) family medicine specialist Dr Mastura Mohd Sopian.
“Flood victims are susceptible to germs, mould, fungi along with viruses carried by animals and insects,” she said.
From the flu to leptospirosis, diarrhoea, hand, foot and mouth disease, and dengue fever, or even dysentery, typhoid, cholera, asthma and skin infections, Dr Mastura said flood victims are often at serious risk of illnesses.
“It is important that healthcare providers be part of rescue teams,” she said.
Public health expert Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar advised flood victims to stay out of the rain if possible and avoid wading in floodwater unless absolutely necessary.
He said flood victims should always drink only bottled or boiled water and eat food that is fully cooked.
“Flood victims contract water-borne diseases most commonly because of the ingestion of contaminated water and food,” he said.
USM virologist Dr Kumitaa Theva Das said during monsoon seasons, countries that have winters are currently facing a “tripledemic” – Covid-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus infections.
“But in a tropical country like Malaysia, such outbreaks can happen all-year round.
“There were fewer flu cases during the pandemic as people were masked up.
“But now that Covid-19 precautions are relaxed, and with the year-end holidays plus high risk of flooding, there will most likely be an increase in flu cases.
“Unlike the high vaccination rate against Covid-19, the vaccination rate for flu in Malaysia is only about 3%, making us unprepared,” she said.
She warned that the wet days would inevitably lead to diseases carried by mosquito vectors, especially dengue, chikungunya and malaria.