Water-borne illnesses on decline

Wednesday January 30, 2019 Written by Published in Health

Ministry of Health has witnessed a decline in the water-borne illnesses despite the recent heavy downpours which have increased the risk of water contamination on Rarotonga.


Director of Hospital Services Doctor Yin May said according to the Events Surveillance and Response (ESR) report for January 15 to January 20, 2019, water-borne illnesses were on a decline.

The symptoms of water-borne ailments common on the island include diarrhoea and vomiting.

“The number of diarrhoea and related diseases have slightly decreased so it’s not increasing after the heavy rain. The main symptoms are diarrhoea and vomiting,” Dr May said.

“Other symptoms may include skin infection, ear, respiratory or eye problems, but they are not as common as diarrhoea and vomiting.”

Dr May said people with the above symptoms should seek medical advice to avoid further complications.

“It actually depends on how severe the symptoms are. If they are having watery stool three to four times in a 24-hour period, they should seek medical advice.”

Water-borne illnesses are caused by drinking contaminated water. Swimming in contaminated water can also cause these conditions.

Community Health Services director Dr Tereapii Uka earlier advised people to boil their drinking water, especially after a heavy downpour.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), waterborne diseases are linked to significant disease burden worldwide.

Waterborne diarrhoeal illnesses, for example, are responsible for two million deaths each year, with the majority occurring in children under 5, it said.

“Climate change-induced flooding and droughts can impact household water and sanitation infrastructure and related health risks. For instance, flooding can disperse faecal contaminants, increasing risks of outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as cholera. In addition, water shortages due to drought can increase risks of diarrhoeal disease,” WHO said.

“Proper household water and sanitation practices can increase resilience to water-borne disease risks. These measures include sanitary sewage disposal, safe water piping materials and storage, and education on hygienic behaviours. Energy-efficient water infrastructure and water conservation measures can also decrease the burden of water-borne diseases.”

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