In light of the unusually high tides and the overtopping of the sea defences along coastal areas especially on the West Coast of Demerara and the possibility of flooding, the Ministry of Public Health is advising that special attention be placed on health, personal hygiene, vector control, food and water safety to avoid adverse effects of flooding.
The Ministry advises:
That if you are living in flooded areas, stay out of the flood water as much as possible, as it can greatly reduce your chances of contracting diseases such as skin irritation, skin infection, Leptospirosis, diarrhea and other water-borne diseases. Direct contact with flood waters can expose you to several germs that can lead to any of these diseases. Keep children especially out of the water as they are most at risk of contracting diseases. Avoid swimming in canals and trenches. During the rainy season and floods, these become contaminated by both human and animal faeces and can make you sick.
If you must venture into any area with flood waters, use protective gear such as long boots, gloves and eye protection. Prepare a foot bath of ½ cup of bleach to one bucket of water and wash your feet before entering the house. Apply Vaseline or oil to your skin as it forms a barrier and provides some protection from the dirty salted water.
During flooding, you may notice an increase in mosquitoes. Protect yourself and family against mosquitoes bites by sleeping under mosquito nets, use mosquito repellents and coils. Ensure that all water stored around your homes in containers is covered to reduce the breeding of mosquitoes. Remember, the mosquito that spreads Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya virus breeds in fresh still water (especially fresh rain water) around your home.
Use safe water for drinking, cooking, brushing your teeth, making ice and beverages. Safe water is water that is treated with chlorine bleach by adding 1/2 teaspoon to 5 gallons bucket of water, cover and let the water stand for 30 minutes before using ) or by boiling clean water for at least 5 minutes, cool and store in covered containers. Sealed bottled water is also considered safe for consumption.
Keep food supplies away from contact with any flood water. Flood water can contaminate food supplies including dry groceries, vegetables, fruits, cooked foods and beverages. Discard all foods that have been in contact with flood waters safely by placing in a plastic bag and deposit in covered bins.
Wash all fruits and vegetables with treated safe water and peel before eating. Remember to keep all food items and drinking water in covered containers
Cook food thoroughly and consume cooked meals within two hours of preparation. Store all remaining food safely in a refrigerator and reheat thoroughly before consuming.
Wash hands with soap and safe water or use hand sanitizers, especially before eating meals, after going to the toilet or latrine, cleaning children or handling animals and contaminated materials.
Use the approved toilets or latrines to defecate and dispose of baby’s diapers in your covered bins. Do not mess or let faeces get into the flood waters, drains or trenches.
Secure all household waste and other garbage in plastic bags and store in bins until these are properly removed to approved landfill sites. Keep garbage bins covered to prevent pests such as mosquitoes, flies, rats and roaches from entering. Do not dump garbage in drains, trenches, canals and illegal dumping areas around your community.
Protect against wild animals coming into your homes. Rats, roaches, snakes, centipedes and other pests which may spread disease that have been flooded out of their natural homes may seek shelter in your homes. Keep doors and windows closed or screened to prevent them from entering your homes.
Protect against electric shock by turning off the main electrical switch and unplug all appliances and move them to safe areas of your homes if your home is at threat of flooding. If you suspect electrical wiring has been damaged in your home, turn off the main and have it checked by a qualified electrician before turning on back the power.
Secure all important items and documents (equipment, supplies, medicines, clothing) in safe spaces in your homes. Place important documents and valuables in plastic and store them in a safe place.
Please do not self medicate or attempt to manage any illness on your own since any delay in adequate diagnosis and full treatment may lead to difficult complications such as dehydration, organ failure (such as kidney and liver) and even septicemia.
If you or any family member experiences any fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rash, cuts, sticks, bruises, injuries or other medical conditions, please seek medical attention immediately. The West Demerara Regional Hospital, L:eonora Hospital, GPHC, other regional and district hospitals’ outpatient departments in your areas are all fully operational and equipped to provide adequate care.
Dr. Shamdeo Persaud,
Chief Medical Officer