When Water Makes You Sick!

The use of water in hygiene is an important preventive measure in disease control but contaminated water is also a leading cause of many water borne diseases.

Water borne diseases can be spread while drinking, bathing, washing, or by eating food exposed to contaminated water.

Common water borne diseases

1. Cholera

Cholera is a bacterial disease usually spread through contaminated water. It is spread by eating food or drinking water contaminated by the faeces of an infected person.

Although contaminated water is the main source of cholera infection, raw shellfish, uncooked fruits and vegetables, and grains can also habour the cholera causing bacteria.

Due to diarrhoea and vomiting, cholera can quickly become fatal. In the most severe cases, the rapid loss of large amounts of fluids and electrolytes can lead to death within two to three hours.

2. Typhoid

Typhoid fever is a life threatening bacterial infection that is often passed on through contaminated food and drinking water. It is more prevalent in places that lack access to clean drinking water and adequate sanitation.

Once you consume the bacteria that causes typhoid fever, it travels from your digestive system into the blood. The bacteria multiply in the gallbladder, bile ducts, or liver and passes into your bowel.

3. Amebiasis

Amebiasis is a disease caused by infection of the intestines with a parasitic amoeba. It spreads through drinking untreated water or eating uncooked food such as fruits and vegetables that may have been washed in contaminated water.

Having oral sex after anal sexual contact can also spread amebiasis.

4. Hepatitis A

The hepatitis A virus is transmitted primarily by the faecal-oral route. The virus is found in the stool of people with hepatitis A and is spread when someone’s stool accidentally contaminates food or water.

This can happen when an infected person does not adequately wash their hands after using the bathroom then touches other things such as food.

When other people eat that food, they can get infected with hepatitis A. Complications of hepatitis

Hepatitis A is can also be spread through:

  • Household contact with an infected person
  • Sexual contact with an infected person
  • Sharing eating utensils that are contaminated
  • Touching contaminated surfaces and then placing your hands near or in the mouth
  • Raw food such as oysters harvested from sewage-contaminated water.

5. Bilharzia

Bilharzia which is also known as Schistosomiasis or snail fever is a parasitic disease caused by worms that live in certain types of freshwater snails.

You can get bilharzia when your skin comes into contact with contaminated fresh water. The parasites enter the skin, then migrate through the body to the blood vessels of the lungs and liver. From there they may advance to the veins around the bowel or bladder.

The worms will lay eggs which can either be passed in the urine or faeces, or remain in the tissues in the human host. Eggs that remain in the host are usually found in the liver or the bladder.

Infected person can infect fresh water if they urinate or defecate in it which starts a new cycle of infection when contaminated water is used for such activities like drinking, washing, bathing or swimming.

Take Action!

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