Precaution can check spread of water-borne diseases: Experts

Kathmandu, August 4:

Outbreaks of food and water-borne diseases can be checked if proper precautions are taken in time, said health experts at a multi-sectoral workshop organised today by the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD). “Choose food items processed for safety, cook food thoroughly, avoid contact between raw and cooked food, wash hands repeatedly, use safe water,” said EDCD director Dr Mahendra Bahadur Bista highlighting the major precautions to be taken. He was that due to heightened awareness among communities, the number of deaths has dropped drastically over the years. According to him, earlier around 3 lakh persons used to be affected by food and water borne diseases with around 25,000 dying a year, but now the number has spiralled down to around 20,000 affected and around 3,000 deaths. The major food and waterborne diseases are cholera, viral gastroenteritis, typhoid, Hepatitis A, polio, worms and parasites and chemical toxins.

According to EDCD, 307 cases of cholera were reported in 2004, with no deaths reported. In Kathmandu Valley, 6,803 cases of diarrhoeal cases with one death were reported, while 14,065 cases and 337 deaths were reported outside valley in 2004. Dr Bista said that there is need for a strong mechanism to check adulteration of food as it is another major cause for food poisoning. For example, lead chromate powder is added to turmeric power, saw and brick dust to chilly powder, starch and animal fat to butter, vanaspati to ghee, and seeds of prickly poppy (agrimonies mexican) in mustard lead to swelling and affects the heart directly.

Unicef representative Larry Robertson said the Unicef had been conducting a number of programmes to control outbreaks caused by poor sanitation, hygiene and water. “Unicef recently started household water treatment to provide clean drinking water and has been conducting programmes for behavioural change like promoting washing of hands with soap, and school and community sanitation hygiene programme.” It is estimated that 10,000 children die of diahorreal disease each year. Dr Bishnu Prasad Pandit, director general, Department of Health Services, said if only we could provide clean drinking water, 60 per cent of water-borne diseases would be controlled.