What Diseases can be caused by Flood Waters?
The first "class of diseases" that can be caused by flooding are water-borne diseases. The major risk factor involved here is the possibility of contamination of drinking-water or other water based facilities in the surrounding areas. Examples of this have occurred in the United States, China, and India during various flood conditions. Water-borne diseases are diseases that are caused by the contamination of fresh water sources by pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria. This class includes a large number of sub-classes including bacteria, protozoans, parasites, and viruses. Among these various classes are a large number of dangerous and communicable diseases including acute Hepatitis A (virus), SARS (caused by Coronavirus), Typhoid fever (caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi), Salmonellosis (caused by bacteria in the genus Salmonella), dysentary, cholera, and E. coli infection, among others. The very large number and variety of water-borne diseases that could be spread due to flood waters make control of those waters and proper safety protocols essential for maintaining health and safety in affected areas. Here is a list of all water-borne diseases with more details about them.
The second class of diseases that can arise from flood waters is more indirect. These are known as vector borne diseases. In the study of disease and epidemiology, a vector is described as an agent (as in: person, animal, microorganism, etc.) that carries (actively or passively) and transmits pathogens to another organism. This is a method of transfer of a pathogen between hosts. Often, arthropods act as vectors between domestic or wild animals and humans. Arthropods include many possible vectors including mosquitos, lice, ticks, mites, and sand flies. These vectors often feed on blood during one or more stages of their lives and, through feeding, are able to infect their host.
Often, this infection is simply a bi-product of the feeding and not something that is actively done, as the vectors are usually not affected by the diseases that they carry. During flood conditions, vector borne diseases are greatly increased (indirectly) through the expansion of the range and number of available habitats for vectors. Flood waters provide new habitats for vectors like mosquitos to multiply in greater numbers and the changes in the behavioral patterns of humans (such as sleeping outside, no access to bug spray, changes in diet) can lead to increased opportunity for infection by these vectors. Diseases typically transmitted by vectors can include malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and West Nile Fever, among others.
In addition to water-borne and vector based diseases, there is also the potential for danger to those health workers who deal with corpses of humans who perished during the flood conditions. There is an increased risk of contracting diseases such as tuberculosis, some blood borne viruses, and infections of the gastrointestinal tract.
Flood waters are a very dangerous environmental condition, even after the initial flooding has passed. Through an increase in water borne disease and disease vectors, flooding has the potential to be very dangerous for human health and safety. The important thing is to remember the dangers that are potentially out there and to maintain your own personal safety standards. Remember the effects that changes in human behavior and environmental conditions can have on your own health.
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Written by : Alexander Maness, United Stated (M.S. in Biotechnology )
Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )