Water Borne Diseases, Gastrointestinal Infections

The most common water-borne illnesses and ailments caused by food contamination include diarrhea (gastroenteritis or food poisoning) dysentery (gastroenteritis), typhoid, and leptospirosis. A lot of them are seen during the rainy season due to water pollution. Being aware of the symptoms and taking simple precautions at home can be a big help in preventing and controlling these water-borne illnesses.

Why Do We See More Food And Water Contamination during Rains?

The increased contamination of water in rains is caused by rainwater being deposited on garbage dumps, ditches, and areas of garbage that are awash in infectious organisms. This water runs down in the form of runoff from the surface of our rivers.

If the water that is contaminated is consumed in a direct manner or food items contaminated by this water are consumed it can cause the body to be exposed to the infective organisms (like bacteria or viruses, as well as parasites and parasites) which can cause the so-called water-borne illnesses.’

Which Are The Most Prevalent Water-Borne Illnesses?

DIARRHEA AND DYSENTERY

These are the most commonly reported water-borne illnesses, which occur when drinking water contaminated by bacteria and viruses, parasites, or other organisms is consumed or when food that is made with such water is consumed. This is the reason the term “food poisoning” gets employed. ‘Gastroenteritis’ is a term used to describe inflammation (itis) caused by damage in the stomach (gastro) and the intestine (enteral) liner that triggers symptoms.

Diarrhea can result from bacteria (the commonest bacteria that causes it is E Coli – also known as traveler’s diarrhea as a result of drinking and eating on the roadsides) and some viruses or even the parasite (called Giardia). Diarrhea caused due to Giardia (Giardiasis) can last for 4 to 6 weeks or longer, with an unpleasant taste in the mouth, greasy and foul-smelling stools gas, vomiting, and weight loss. Giardiasis must be considered a possibility when there is a prolonged period of diarrhea that lasts for longer than a week. For children younger than 5 years, a disease called Rotavirus may cause severe watery diarrhea as well as vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. For these conditions, the vaccine is now available and is administered before the age of 6 for all infants.

Dysentery (Diarrhea with mucus and blood in the stool) It can be caused by parasites ( Entamoeba) or by bacteria (the commonest bacteria is Shigella). The primary distinction lies in the amoebic type of dysentery (amoebiasis) occurs with 6-8 motions per day, with each with large quantities of odorless, semi-formed stools which do not adhere against the sides of the bathroom, and contain blood that is dark red. The dysenteric bacterial forms present with more than 10 motions per day, with each motion having small amounts of odorless fluid stools that stick onto the side of the bathroom, and also contain vibrant red blood.

Doctors may sometimes order a stool test to identify causative parasites or bacteria, or in some cases prescribe a combination of antibiotic-antiparasite medicines.

Prevention of the dehydration is one of the best treatments for dysentery and diarrhea. The Oral Rehydration Solution ( ORS) is available to all chemists and is recommended to be taken regularly by mixing in clean, boiling 1-liter of water. The same solution can also be made at home by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and six teaspoons of sugar in 1 liter of pure boiled water. Hospitalization for the administration of intravenous fluids as well as antibiotics should be administered if the patient is unable to swallow fluids and is showing symptoms of dehydration.

If the symptoms are present Worms(commonly thread/pinworms, roundworms, and occasionally tapeworms), are present particularly in children stool tests are beneficial to determine if worms are present and their types that are followed by the correct treatment for deworming prescribed by your doctor.

TYPHOID

Typhoid is caused due to the bacteria Salmonella Typhi (sometimes closely related bacteria such as S. paratyphi can cause similar illnesses).

The signs of typhoid may be identical to virus flu or other mosquito-borne diseases (like dengue and malaria) as well as the spread of all these diseases is significantly more during the time of rain. Thus, typically an examination of the blood (called the Widal test) is carried out, along with the ‘culture’ of blood (to develop as well as to confirm whether there are bacteria that cause the illness). The doctor can also order tests for blood for typhoid malaria, and dengue to verify the diagnosis. Sometimes, additional stool and urine tests can also be ordered to determine the presence of typhoid.

The treatment for typhoid usually is with home care or an outpatient basis. Treatment may include appropriate antibiotics, fluids to ensure the body’s hydration, and medications to relieve the pain and fever. The diet should be light and easy to digest, such as soft rice, lentils (dal khichdi) prepared vegetables, coconut water buttermilk, juices of fruit as well as mashed apples/bananas and potatoes. Hospitalization is required if the patient is unable to consume fluids or medications through a mouth due to severe vomiting.

The condition is well-managed however, occasionally, complications may occur, including intestinal perforation, resulting in internal bleeding, and the spread of infection to the abdomen. Typhoid is also a cause of complications in the lung (pneumonia) or the heart (myocarditis endocarditis) and bladder (cystitis) as well as the pancreas (pancreatitis) and the brain-spinal cord (meningitis). The mortality rate is approximately 1 out of 1000.

Typhoid Immunization is available and it is now part of the immunization for children schedule.

HEPATITIS

It is a waterborne Hepatitis that occurs due to two types of virus ( Hepatitis A and E virus), as well as other types, are also a result of Hepatitis (B, C, D) are transmitted by contact with blood, and are more serious and lasting effects. Hepatitis as the name suggests is mostly an infection of the liver. It is a common occurrence for both Hepatitis A as well as E to have similar symptoms. Hepatitis A is most common in children, however, it can affect adults too and can cause liver failure-related complications (mortality of about 5 out of 1000). Hepatitis E is most prevalent in adolescents, but for pregnant women it can be serious, that can cause complications (sometimes fatal in 1 out of 5).

The diagnosis is determined through a blood test that can identify the antibodies to hepatitis and then monitored by liver function tests (blood Bilirubin, liver enzymes, and levels of protein).

Usually, water-borne Hepatitis will go away naturally with adequate fluids, rest, and appropriate food (a balanced and nutritious diet that is low in fats). No drugs are advised as they place an extra burden upon the liver. Smoking and drinking alcohol should be avoided at all costs.

Vaccines against Hepatitis A are available, and for Hepatitis E, it’s only being developed in China.

LEPTOSPIROSIS

Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria. that are transmitted through the urine of affected animals such as rats as well as dogs, pigs, and cattle. Humans are susceptible to infection by contact with soil or water that contains urine from animals. The bacteria can get into the body via an injury or cut in the skin. Consuming contaminated water may result in an infection. People who walk or wade through rainwater pools or in puddles are particularly at risk.

An exact blood test can be performed for confirmation of the condition. Antibiotics, fluids, and supportive treatment for fever are the standard treatment. However, hospitalization is generally recommended because kidney or lung complications may occur. The death rate is around 1/20.

PROTECTION FOR DISEASES CAUSED BY WATER

Prevention is always better than treatment

People who walk or wade through rainwater pools or puddles in shoes that are not appropriate for protection are at a higher risk of contracting Leptospirosis. They must cleanse their legs with plenty of water upon returning.

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