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August 2, 2019

Water, food-borne infections on the rise in Potohar region


August 2, 2019

Rawalpindi: The incidences of water and food-borne diseases including gastroenteritis, viral hepatitis (A&E), typhoid and paratyphoid fever and dysentery along with a number of other monsoon related health threats are on the rise since the setting-in of hot and humid weather in this region of the country.

Like every year in monsoon, the public and private sector healthcare facilities in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi including the three teaching hospitals in town and Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences Islamabad have started receiving heavy burden of patients with seasonal ailments.

Data collected by ‘The News’ has revealed that not less than 10000 patients with water and food-borne diseases are reporting at the allied hospitals and PIMS every week and experts believe that the burden may increase if effective prevention and control measures are not adopted seriously both at community and individual levels.

According to estimates, almost every fifth patient reaching public sector healthcare facilities is with water or food-borne infection. Every year during and after monsoon, outbreaks of gastroenteritis, acute watery diarrhoea, cholera and hepatitis A & E are reported in different parts of the country including Islamabad and Rawalpindi primarily due to contamination of drinking water reservoirs because of mixing of sewage water during and immediately after rains.

Also, the rise in temperature and humidity provides bacteria the most conducive environment to grow faster that increases the chances of contamination of drinking water and food, said Head of Department of Infection Diseases at Holy Family Hospital Dr. Muhammad Mujeeb Khan while talking to ‘The News’.

He, like many other health experts said proper sanitation, use of safe drinking water and health education for improved hygiene and safe food handling practices can play a vital role in preventing outbreaks of water and food borne infections.

The poor sanitary conditions prevailing in various areas of the twin cities, use of contaminated and un-chlorinated water and unhygienic food increases the possibility of incidences of water and food-borne infections, said Deputy Director at PIMS Dr. Waseem Khawaja.

Talking on food safety, experts say that one should eat smaller meals with maximum use of green vegetables, fruits, abundant use of onion and curd. Raw foods, particularly cut fruits available at road side vendors should be avoided. Food should be eaten while still hot. Food should be kept covered and protected from flies. Leftover food must be stored in a refrigerator as early as possible. Food should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.

One must wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before preparation of food, eating of food and after going to toilet while kitchens must be kept clean and in proper hygienic condition, said Dr. Mujeeb.

On water discipline, the experts say all drinking water needs to be made safe for drinking either by boiling or chlorination of water with chlorine tablets or bleaching powder. Preferably, boiled water must be used for drinking.

Studies reveal that Chlorine Stock Solution can easily be prepared at home and kept in a container that does not admit light. Add three level table spoons (33 grams) of bleaching powder to one litre or four glasses of water and mix well. Add three drops (0.6ml) of the prepared stock solution to 1 litre of water to stand for 30 minutes before use. Similarly after adding chlorine tablets to water, one must wait for 30 minutes before drinking water.

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