Following the incidence of flood in some states of the federation in the past few weeks, a professor of Virology, Oyewole Tomori, has cautioned against some flood-related ailments.
Tomori, who noted this in an electronic mail interview, said floodwater spreads refuse, including faeces, around dwellings, which could lead to an array of water and vector borne diseases.
According to him, when floodwater remains stagnant for a period of time, it serves as an ideal breeding sites for mosquitoes, which are vectors for malaria parasites, as well as, some viral infections.
He listed yellow fever, dengue and Zika, among others, as part of the viral infections flood victims could be exposed to. Cholera, polio and other intestinal parasites are some of water borne related ailments.
He explained that flood could be an underlying factor for emerging and re- emerging of such diseases as West Nile, and Chikungunya viruses, because it creates a thriving condition for the production of the aedes mosquitoes that transmit them.
Tomori, who is the President, Nigerian Academy of Science, said part of the threats flood poses to its victims are some water borne diseases like typhoid fever, leptospirosis and hepatitis A and C, among others.
The viral expert said contaminated sources of drinking water open to flood often time causes diarrhoea, cholera, guinea worm disease and dysentery, which are all water related ailments.
He stated that the World Health Organisation (WHO) attributed the yearly death of 3.4 four million people globally to water related diseases, making it the leading cause of disease and death around the world.
In that report, WHO noted: “most of these victims are young children, the vast majority of whom die of illnesses caused by organisms that thrive in contaminated water sources by raw sewage.”
He said feaces in areas, where open defecation is common, could contaminate floodwater, as this contains numerous bacteria, eggs of other parasites, damp and wet refuse, which are medium for growth of different types of infections.
WHO 2013 fact sheet on diarrheal diseases states that it kill around 760, 000 under-five children each year globally, due to contaminated sources of drinking water, poor hygiene and sanitation.
The document said, “1.5 million people die annually from diarrheal diseases, including cholera; 90 percent are children under 14, mostly in developing countries and 88 percent of diarrheal disease is attributed to unsafe water supply, inadequate sanitation and hygiene.”
Similarly, Dr. Abraham Mnzava, a former Coordinator of Malaria Vector Control, WHO, affirmed that flood causes water-borne diseases, because of its introduction of pathogens into water sources.
Mnzava, however, explained that though conducive breeding sites for vectors are created during flood, the water equally washes off some of these sites.Speaking with The Guardian on the issue, Dr. Akinkunmi Afolabi, President, Association of Resident Doctors (ARD), Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), related flood not only to physical wellbeing, but also to psychological health.
Identifying the negative impact of flood on people’s psychology, he said: “it leads to lots of agitations, anxiety and stress, which might shot up people’s blood pressures in some cases.”
He explained that people with open wounds, and who are constantly exposed to floodwater, could develop some fungal illnesses like Telia (rust fungi) infection in the feet, and injury sustenance as a result of moving sharp objects in the floodwater, which infect them with tetanus.
In his article titled “Health Risks Remain After Floodwater Subsides,” Dr. Bernie Hudson, an infectious diseases physician at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital, Australia said, “any cuts and scratches acquired in a flood-affected area should be cleaned immediately and covered to avoid infection.”
Hudson noted that floodwater and contaminated soil could as well be sources of leptospirosis (a bacterial disease caused by pathogens found in animal urine), which usually enters the body through small breaks in the skin, causing a flu-like illness.
With reference to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), Bethesda, Maryland, United States, flood accounts for 40 percent of all natural disasters worldwide and causes about half of all deaths from natural disasters.
The NBCI’s report pointed out that most floods occur in developing regions and tropical regions, where the impact on public health is substantial, with large number of displaced people and high death rates.
Tomori suggested that for flood-related ailments to be controlled in our societies, there is need to keep clean drainages to prevent contamination of water sources. “We need to adopt vector control measures like use of mosquito net, destroy breeding sites of mosquitoes and improve our sewage systems,” he said.
Experts advised thorough cleaning of all body parts exposed to floodwater; mud or silt must be embraced, as well as proper tools for site cleaning. Access to safe drinking water, improved sanitation, and good hygiene is also key to preventing most of these ailments.
He urged the general public to desist from throwing refuse into drainages to avert blockages. He also appealed to government to not only expand existing drainage systems, but to also increase the capture of the National Health Insurance Schemes (NHIS) to support in the outcomes of flood and allied health issues.
“When this is done, people would easily seek care without the fear of out of pocket payments,” he said.He urged relevant agencies to harken to flood warnings by National Weather Forecasting and Climate Research Centre and anticipate for proper healthcare for persons in displaced camps, since most of the infections happen there.