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Water and Health

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7.05.2015 | Water borne diseases

Causes of Diarrhoea, Typhoid & Paratyphoid

Causes of Diarrhoea, Typhoid & Paratyphoid

Waterborne illnesses refer to those diseases that arise when we drink or come in contact with contaminated water that contains harmful microorganisms. One type of microorganism is a bacterium. Bacteria are made up of a single cell and can be found everywhere. In fact, there are trillions of bacteria in the human body and for the most part, they are harmless.

However, some of the bacteria found in the environment can cause human diseases and some of these diseases spread through drinking water or water that we swim in.

Let’s take a look at some of these common conditions:

E.coli infections: Escherichia coli (E. coli) are the normal residents of the human gut. Yes, even in healthy people. However, certain types of this bacteria (for e.g. strain O157:H7) can cause vomiting, abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhoea which could lead to complications in kids and older adults.

How does it spread? This bacterium enters the human body through food (undercooked meats or raw vegetables) or contaminated water.

Here’s how to prevent it? You can prevent the infection by practicing good hygiene, avoiding undercooked meats and unpasteurized food products, and keeping raw foods separate from what’s already cooked. Also, make sure you use drinking water purifiers.

Cholera: Here, the bacterium Vibrio cholerae is the culprit. Most people have mild symptoms of this disease i.e. painless watery diarrhoea with vomiting and nausea. But in severe cases, patients can get severely dehydrated and the disease can be fatal.

How does it spread? The disease spreads when the faeces of the infected person contaminates the drinking water or the water that is used to wash vegetables and fruits. Certain raw seafood can also be a source of infection in places with poor hygiene and sanitation facilities.

Here’s how to prevent it? To prevent it, practice good hygiene, eat food that has been cooked properly and consume water from drinking water purifiers.

Campylobacteriosis: The infection is caused by the bacteria Campylobacter jejuni or Campylobacter coli. The affected person experiences abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, nausea and diarrhoea with blood or mucus. Some patients relapse or have more serious complications, though the disease is rarely fatal.

How does it spread? The bacteria are often found in warm-blooded animals like cats, dogs, cattle and sheep, even though the animals may not have any symptoms. However, humans are exposed to the bacteria through contaminated water or undercooked meats.

Here’s how to prevent it? To prevent it, drink water from drinking water purifiers, thoroughly cook any food that could be contaminated, avoid raw milk and practice good personal hygiene.

Typhoid and paratyphoid fever: These fevers are caused by Salmonella typhi and Salmonella paratyphi respectively. Both have similar symptoms though paratyphoid fever is usually comparatively milder. Patients have symptoms such as high fever, rose-coloured spots on the chest, headache, loss of appetite and the liver and spleen are enlarged.

How does it spread? The infection spreads when water is contaminated by urine/faecal matter from the patients or could even spread if the food and water is handled by a patient. But even after a patient has recovered, the faecal matter may continue to have these harmful bacteria.

Here’s how to prevent it? Good sanitation and personal hygiene can help prevent these fevers. Also, patients with typhoid and paratyphoid fevers should be asked not to handle food that’s eaten by others.

Botulism: This disease is caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. It is a very serious condition that can lead to paralysis of the respiratory and muscular system in a patient and could even result in death.

How does it spread? This disease is usually foodborne i.e. if a person eats food that is contaminated with the organism or the toxin. In some cases, the infection could be due to contaminated water. Always drink water from drinking water purifiers.

How can you prevent it? Boiling and disinfection of water can destroy the toxin, if present.

Shigellosis: Caused by the Shigella bacterium, a patient with shigellosis will have stomach cramps and bloody diarrhoea. Younger children and older adults are most vulnerable to these infections.

How does it spread? The disease can spread through drinking water, or swimming in water that is contaminated with faecal matter from an infected person.

Here’s how to prevent it? Personal hygiene and good sanitation is important. Patients should also avoid handling food and water that are consumed by other healthy people. Young children in diapers with Shigellosis should be kept away from healthy children if possible.

Leptospirosis: Caused by the bacteria Leptospira, leptospirosis usually results in fever, headache, vomiting, muscle pain, cough and other symptoms that are usually mild. In rare cases, major organs could be affected.

How does it spread? A person gets leptospirosis when he or she comes in contact with water that has been contaminated with animal urine that contained the bacteria. Rodents, pigs, dogs and cattle are known to play host to this bacteria. The disease usually won’t spread from one person to another person.

Here’s how to prevent it? Drinking water from drinking water purifies and wearing adequate protective clothing (if you are exposed to fresh water that could be contaminated) are some of the ways to help prevent this disease.

One way to always ensure that you are drinking safe and purified water is to bring home a Pureit, that comes with a GermKill Kit™ that kills harmful bacteria and virus present in water that cause diseases.

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