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Waterborne Diseases

Waterborne diseases are diseases those that are commonly spread through contaminated fresh water. The water may be contaminated with human or animal feces containing pathogenic microorganisms. One gram of feces can contain; 10,000,000 viruses, 1,000,000 bacteria, 1000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs. Such water when used for bathing, washing, drinking, preparing food, or the consumption of food causes infection. Water related diseases such as salmonellosis, cholera, malaria, etc, cause about 1.8 million humans to die every year. According to The World Health Organization, about 88% of that burden is due to the use of unsafe water supply, proper sanitation and personal hygiene. An approximate of 780 million people does not have the availability of an improved water source

  •  Diarrhea
  • Cholera
  • Malaria
  • Typhoid
  • Intestinal worms
  • E.coli infections
  • Botulism  Dysentery

Depending upon the bacteria, viruses, or other pathogenic microorganisms that are responsible for the diseases, the symptoms also vary. They are characterized by,

  • loss of excess water and electrolytes from the body,
  • nausea
  • headache
  • abdominal discomfort or cramping
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • loss of weight
  • fatigue

The parasites and the bacteria which cause these diseases are mostly intestinal parasites. They attack the tissues, circulatory system and walls of the digestive tract. Even certain viruses are found to be the cause of water borne illness like Poliomyelitis, Hepatitis A, SARS, etc. Round worm infections and Schistosomiasis, spread through blood flukes are also serious water related illness.

The parasites and the bacteria which cause these diseases are mostly intestinal parasites. They attack the tissues, circulatory system and walls of the digestive tract. Even certain viruses are found to be the cause of water borne illness like Poliomyelitis, Hepatitis A, SARS, etc. Round worm infections and Schistosomiasis, spread through blood flukes are also serious water related illness.

Some low cost techniques can be practiced among the household itself so as to make the available water comparatively harmless.

  • Chlorination         -   to add liquid or tablet chlorine to drinking water
  • Solar disinfection  -   to expose the water in plastic containers to direct sunlight for a day.  
  • Filtration              -   to use silver coated ceramic filters for filtration.
  • Iodine                 -   tablets or a tincture can be used to disinfect  
  • Boiling                -   it is the easiest and safest method to kill pathogens.
  • Safe storage       -   store the water in a clean place, handle with clean hands.
  • Combinedflocculation/ disinfection - to add flocculating agents which will combine with the particles in the water and make them settle.

In order to reduce the waterborne illnesses from being transmitted to others the following things can be kept in mind

  • Thorough washing of the hands with soap and hot running water for at least ten seconds
  • before preparing food
  • before eating
  • after using the toilet
  • after using a tissue
  • after changing clothes or soiled with stool
  • after caring for people with diarrhea

People who are infected by waterborne diseases are usually faced with related costs and not with a huge financial trouble. The financial losses are mostly caused by medical treatment and medication, costs for transport, special food, and by the loss of manpower. Some of them have to forgo their properties for treatment in a proper hospital. On an average, a family spends about 10% of the monthly household’s income per person infected.

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