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Diseases Spread by Urban Flooding and How to Avoid Them

Dr. Hira Tanveer

3 min read

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Urban flooding is a complex problem that occurs due to increased rainfall, lack of urban planning, bad sanitation and well, luck. It leads to all sorts of logistical and medical problems alongside capital loss.

The chances of accidents run very high in the flooding. Cars can get swept away, open manhole covers can cause people to fall into the drains, the electric lines can fall, leading to electrocution of the unsuspecting pedestrians.

When the water levels are dangerously high, people can get swept away in the waters as well. Similarly, in heavy rainfalls, weak structures can also crumble, suffocating and killing many people.

When timely aid is not provided and the wounds are not cleaned properly, the wound can get infected, leading to complications of all sorts.

However, accidents and injuries are not the only things that endanger health and safety of people during urban flooding. There are many diseases that also spread due to the static water and the unsanitary conditions, some of which are enlisted below:

Gastrointestinal infections

Flooding poses a great risk of drinking water contamination. As the water system gets overwhelmed due to the excess water from the rains, it is very likely for the waterlines to cross over. Hence, the clean water gets mixed with the sewage water.

One common gastrointestinal infection that occurs during flooding is diarrhea. Caused by intake of contaminated water, this infection can lead to severe dehydration if not timely treated. It is also a symptom of other infections like cholera and dysentery, which too are a consequence of poor sanitation and bad hygiene. These infections are contagious and thus people should be cautious about their contact with the patient.

Hepatitis A

Water contamination during urban flooding also causes Hepatitis A. This virus is also transmitted from person to person, especially when an infected person with poor hygiene prepares the food. Undercooked and mishandled food are also common sources of the virus.

This virus targets the liver and can cause mild to severe symptoms. In a more serious case, it can lead to liver failure and hence death as well.

Hepatitis A is a very robust virus, that can withstand the rigorous food preparation process. Any outbreak can take even months to control and thus is a cause for concern.

Skin problems

When the skin comes in contact with the dirty, static flood water, it can be attacked by pathogens, irritants, toxins, fungus and parasites that cause many skin diseases. The risk is higher for people who sustain cuts that come in contact with the dirty water, as it allows the pathogens to enter easily into the body.

Other than infection, contact dermatitis, allergic reaction, psoriasis are also dangers of urban flooding. Similarly, the water may also house animals that can bite and cause skin problems.

Vector borne diseases

The static water, courtesy of urban flooding, acts as a breeding ground for many mosquitos. Hence, the outbreak of malaria, dengue, West Nile Fever is common in the aftermath of heavy rainfalls and floods.

How to stay safe during urban flooding

Take the necessary precautions

It is best to stay indoors post-flooding. Nothing is worth getting stranded outside, in dangerous conditions for. Make sure to be on the lookout for flood warnings and keep handy some staples so that you are able to stay put during the worst of the floods.

Similarly, when venturing out on foot, wear good solid rain shoes. Do not go deeper into the water. Tread carefully and walk on the visible surfaces only. These will help you evade any injuries and the resultant diseases.

Keep storage of clean water

Due to water contamination, the risk of infections runs great. Moreover, most of the times the contamination is not visible to the naked eye. Hence, be prepared for the worse. Do not use the running water supply for cooking or any sort of food preparation and do not drink from the tap.

Instead, keep an alternate source of water and use it till things get better. Resolve any sanitation problems just in time for the monsoon so that the inconveniences and dangers of flooding are minimized.

Keep medical kit ready

When there is flooding, mobility is severely compromised. Hence, in case there is any accident, or one succumbs to the many diseases caused by the flooding, they should be ready with the medical first aid.

Hence, be sure to keep a good first aid box with medical emergency paraphernalia, like ORS, disinfectants, band aids and bandages etc. Also, it Is best to keep handy mosquito repellent to prevent getting vector borne diseases.

Moreover, many conditions like hepatitis have vaccine present. Since developing world has higher risk of the disease, people should get the respective shots for disease prevention.

Preach good hygiene

Many of the above enlisted diseases like hepatitis etc. are a result of poor personal hygiene. The risk of these great diseases can be averted simply by preaching the concept of good hygiene like washing hands after going to the bathroom.

Moreover, before preparing food, the cook should also wash their hands with soap. People who have the disease should not prepare food for others just in case, they should also not be in close contact with others.

Beware of what you eat

It is very much possible that the contaminated water overflows into the water bodies and contaminates the marine life. The fish that live in these waters also then takes in the pathogens and toxins. Consuming this fish therefore leads to GI and other infections in people as well, as not all bacteria are heat sensitive.

Hence, to avoid unnecessary exposure to the possibly contaminated fish, do not eat seafood during the bouts of urban flooding. Moreover, be sure to properly store the food. Many a times, power outages are experienced when there is heavy rainfall and floods. The food can go bad in the fridge as a result, so do not to eat old food or improperly stored food.

As there is no way of corroborating how the restaurants etc. stored their food, so try eating homemade foods during such conditions.

If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of any water borne illness, it is important that you get in touch with the best internal medicine specialist in Karachi, Islamabad or Lahore. You can book a virtual appointment via oladoc.com or call our helpline at 021-38140600

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Hira Tanveer
Dr. Hira Tanveer - Author Dr. Hira Tanveer is an MBBS doctor and currently serving at CMH Lahore. Writing is her favorite hobby as she loves to share professional advice on trendy healthcare issues, general well-being, healthy diet, and lifestyle.

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