Water-borne diseases are caused precisely due to the contamination of drinking water that has been contaminated by human or animal faeces. These faeces contain pathogenic microorganisms that spread through water. They cause severe, life-threatening diseases. People with low resistance, mainly the elderly and the young, are vulnerable to these diseases.
A number of water-borne diseases occur due to the usage of disinfected water, implementation of non-hygienic food preparation and by insufficient personal hygiene.
WHO and UNICEF estimate that waterborne diseases are responsible for 80% of all illnesses and a third of all deaths in developing countries.
To improve the economic progress of developing countries, water contamination and spread of infectious diseases must be handled. According to WHO, 88% of all waterborne illnesses are due to poor hygiene, sanitation and an unsafe water supply.
- Pollution which includes dangerous levels of chemicals, nitrates or heavy metals in the water supply due to industrial pollution or the over-use of agricultural chemicals.
- Dirt and contamination which include bacteria, viruses and parasitic organisms that mix into the water while coming in contact with animal or human waste. Even one gram of faeces can contain up to 100 billion microbes.
- It can also spread through contaminated hands and cooking vessels used while preparing food or beverages.
- Microorganisms present in contaminated water can also infiltrate in the wounds and nose when a person comes in contact with it through activities like swimming in a contaminated pond river.
Some of the most prominent water-borne diseases include the following:
Diarrhoea is one of the grave water-borne diseases that mostly affects children under 5 years of age and often leads to death in severe circumstances. Caused by the spread of contaminated food and drinking water, a diarrhoeal attack can last up to 2 weeks and can cause complete dehydration. Diarrhoea is widespread through multiple viruses, the poorer sections of society suffer the most and have the highest contact with it.
- Severe dizziness
- Loss of consciousness
- Dehydration and pale skin
- Little or no urination and in some cases, blood in stools.
Cholera is diarrhoeal in nature and can kill in hours if left unattended. Caused by Vibrio Cholerae Bacterium, Cholera has symptoms of watery bowels and even fever in certain cases. Thousands of people fall prey to cholera every year in India, including both adults and children.
- Rapid heart rate
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Dry mucous membranes (inside of the mouth, throat, nose and eyelids),
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle cramps.
Typhoid is caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhimurium (S. Typhi) which lives in the intestines and bloodstream of humans. It spreads by direct contact with the faeces of an infected person, through food, drinks and drinking water that is contaminated with infected faecal matter. The disease is diagnosed by detecting the presence of this bacterium via blood, stool, urine or bone marrow sample.
That begin 6 to 30 days after exposure to the bacterium showcase
- Prolonged fever
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain.
Campylobacteriosis is another infection which is caused by the Campylobacter bacterium and can cause diarrhoea and other serious complications. There is a greater chance for infants and children to contract this infection but it can strike anyone at any age. Campylobacter bacteria can enter your system on consumption of unpasteurized milk or undercooked poultry as the bacteria usually live in the digestive systems of animals, including animal and cattle. In developing countries, the bacteria can also be found in water and sewage systems.
The infection usually lasts for about a week.
- Bloody diarrhoea
- Belly cramps
Hepatitis A is another type of waterborne disease caused by Hepatitis A virus which affects the liver. It is caused by the faecal-oral route, by direct contact with the infected person or by ingestion of contaminated food or water.
Symptoms of this disease occur for about 2 to 7 weeks after coming into contact with the virus with:
- Muscle soreness
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Dark-yellow urine
- Light-colored stools
- Yellowish eyes and skin (first impression of jaundice).
Prevention of Water-Borne Diseases
Water-borne diseases can cause severe harm to your body and sometimes it can be fatal. Since it is preventable, some prevention techniques should be incurred that will reduce the morbidity and mortality to a great extent!
- Ensure that the source of water is hygienic and not polluted or contaminated.
- Boil your drinking water on a daily basis. Vigorously boiling water for one minute kills most microorganisms.
- Household items such as chlorine bleach, tincture of iodine and iodine tablets can be used to disinfect water.
- In case boiled water is unavailable, drink filtered and distilled water.
- Always wash your hands before and after meals and after using the toilet and defecation.
- Cover your food and beverage utensils.
- Avoid consumption of foods, fruit juices and milkshakes from roadside vendors.
- Avoid ice cubes from outside because they are a major source of contaminated water.
- Eat cooked and warm food and not food left in the open for long.
- Keep your fingernails short to avoid collection of germs in them.
- Try to get immunised to protect yourself from vaccine-preventable diseases.
- Take additional care in disposing of infant and toddler faeces.
Once you have contracted a waterborne disease, utmost care has to be taken to ensure the regaining of good health and normalcy in day-to-day life. Adequate nourishing support is required and in severe cases, hospitalisation is very important. On contraction of any waterborne disease, immediate doctor’s consultancy is recommended.
Water-borne diseases are enormously harmful and contagious and can lead to severe illness and may even be fatal. Prevention of these diseases requires high standards of hygiene and sanitation. They lower the body’s strength and intake of nourishment, which results in further infections and diseases.
Along with constant techniques of being clean, one of the most important technique is to sanitize your hands! Just the usage of water might not be helpful in killing germs. Soap and water is a must but microorganisms are not necessarily killed in these processes either. So it is of utmost importance to sanitise in order to kill unwanted, prevailing germs that enter through your hands and might spread further.
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