Water-related diseases cause 3.4 million deaths each year, making it one of the leading causes of death around the world. The majority of victims of water contamination are children (about 2.2 million) who suffer from illnesses that arise due to organisms thriving in water resources due to pollution.
Climate change, occurring due to unplanned industrialization practices and improper waste management systems has a harsh impact on our water resources. Pure water is important for us to ensure our well-being, since the human body is 70% of water.
In Nepal, we have been facing fluctuating weather conditions – it is harshly humid and hot one day, and raining heavily the next. Too much heat can cause drought and deplete water sources, which might increase the risk of diarrhoeal diseases. Excessive rainfall and flood in rural areas can also cause fecal materials to disperse and contaminate water resources, making waterborne diseases common.
What are water-related diseases?
Water-related diseases occur due to the intake of dirty or contaminated water which can cause various diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera, typhoid, and even serious illnesses such as the guinea-worm disease.
What are the causes of water-related diseases?
Many of the water-related illnesses arise due to lack of adequate clean water for drinking and cooking purposes. Other diseases are caused due to inadequate sanitation facilities and poor personal hygiene practices that are directly connected to the lack of clean water.
The two major causes of water-related diseases are:
High levels of chemicals, nitrates, and other heavy metals are mixed in water resources due to industrial pollution and/or the over-use of agricultural chemicals, which adversely affects human health.
2. Dirt and contamination
Bacteria, viruses and parasitic organisms invisibly contaminate water and cause diseases. Most of the water-related diseases occur due to coming in contact with animal or human waste.
What are some types of water-related diseases?
1. Waterborne diseases
Waterborne diseases are spread when people drink contaminated water, or eat food that has been prepared with contaminated water. Common waterborne illnesses include typhoid, cholera, dysentery, gastroenteritis, and hepatitis.
Most waterborne diseases are diarrheal diseases, including cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis, which are caused due to an intestinal parasite causing symptoms like severe diarrhea, fever, muscle cramps, nausea, weight loss, and dehydration. Cholera and typhoid are other waterborne disease caused by bacteria. It can cause deadly diarrhea and be fatal to the malnourished or people with weakened immunity.
2. Water-washed diseases
Water-washed diseases are caused by poor personal hygiene that results from an inadequate supply of clean water. Typical water-washed diseases include shigella, which is a skin infection and scabies & trachoma, which are eye infections and highly contagious.
3. Water-based diseases
These diseases are transmitted by aquatic hosts, such as worms. They penetrate the skin while cleaning or bathing with contaminated water. Some hosts such as Salmonella enterica serotype Typhi bacteria can enter our body through unclean drinking water. This can cause Typhoid, which is a form of severe bacterial infection and causes diarrhea, vomiting, fever and jaundice.
In some cases, water-based diseases can also be fatal. For example, Schistosomiasis, a deadly parasitic water based infection can damage the liver, lungs, intestines and bladder of a human body.
4. Water-related insect vectors diseases
These diseases are spread by insects which form habitats on stagnant water sources. For this reason, the diseases they cause aren’t as related to water as those more directly transmitted by water.
Some water-related insect vector diseases include malaria, filariasis, yellow fever, and river blindness. The most common of these, Malaria, is transmitted through the mosquitos which breed on fresh or brackish water.
The malarial parasite destroys red blood cells, and induce fever, head and muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea, and even jaundice. In extreme cases, malaria victims may have convulsions, comas, or kidney failures resulting in death. Malaria is one of the greatest killers in all of human history.
5. Diseases caused by defective sanitation
Some diseases caused by defective sanitation practices. Hookworm is contracted by contact with contaminated soil which has a huge mass of human feces. Hookworm larvae penetrate human skin to reach out to the small intestine, where it breeds and grows in number.
This disease causes itching, rashes, diarrhea, and cramps. However, for children, pregnant women and those who are malnourished, it can cause anemia, protein deficiency, and retarded growth.
How to avoid water-related diseases?
Water-related diseases are highly preventable and can be avoided altogether if proper attention is given.
Listed below are some tips on how you can prevent contracting water-related diseases:
- Ensure that the water you use is boiled, filtered and disinfected.
- Wash your hands properly and follow proper sanitation practices.
- Do not drink unfiltered water. Always carry a portable filter or only drink boiled water while traveling to ensure you drink clean water.
- Ensure that any stored water remains germ-free and clean using chlorine disinfectants.
- Before taking a bath, add a few drops of antiseptic liquid to your water to kill harmful bacteria.
- Ensure all your food is washed with iodine, cleaned, and thoroughly cooked before eating.
- Avoid eating from roadside vendors.
- Get immunized to protect yourself from vaccine-preventable diseases.
- Using insect-repellent cream while hiking or traveling.
Water-related diseases can be prevented easily. However, once you suffer from the symptoms, it may be necessary to immediately contact a health professional in order to get it diagnosed so that a treatment procedure can be recommended quickly.
Travelling? Get immunized & avoid water-related diseases!
If you are a traveller, there are high chances of you catching water-related diseases. Protect yourself against germs and bacteria while travelling by getting immunized at Swacon International Hospital.
Our team of medical experts are also experienced in Travel Medicine should you suffer from any illness while travelling or trekking in Nepal.
Health for All