Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Jamaicans warned to be on guard for water-borne diseases

Published:Thursday | October 6, 2016 | 10:00 AMChristopher Serju

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is appealing to Jamaicans to protect themselves from the threat of water-borne diseases, which are a very real risk at this time, in light of the flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew.

"Normally after heavy rain and flooding, you get a spike in water-borne diseases such as gastroenteritis, and that is a consequence of contaminants when people drink or otherwise interact with the water. So it's advisable that persons boil water before drinking and avoid, as best as possible, playing in puddles of water, especially children, because that could lead to other ailments," he warned yesterday.

Tufton told The Gleaner that given the inclement weather, the matter of hygiene must extend to addressing the potential health risks from the environment, with the elimination of mosquito breeding sites a priority. He said that in addition to checking around the home, as well as drums and other vessels used to store water for domestic purposes, the public needs to also focus on other forms of catchment.

"These may be old tyres, cans, and other discarded household items because with heavy rains, you could get a spike in mosquito breeding sites, and, of course, we're struggling with Zika, dengue, and other vector-borne diseases. So we certainly advise persons to look around their immediate environs to determine where sites exist and destroy these as quickly as they are discovered," the health minister appealed.

FLU SEASON APPROACHING

Despite these precautions, Jamaicans should prepare to deal with an increase in the mosquito population by, among other things, using repellent with deet.

The minister also pointed out that the flu season was approaching, so persons need to be especially vigilant. He said some new strategies to minimise the fallout from the flu season would be incorporated into the overall plan to fight the Zika virus, among other diseases.

"That's going to be accompanied by a number of activities to promote better hygiene, and so on. So what we are trying to do is intertwine the additional messages that need to get out there as a result of the rain with the existing programmes that we are pursuing linked to current and cyclical risks that we face as a country."

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com