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Oct 22, 2015

Healthy Living Looks at the Health Hazards of Flooding

The Ministry of Health has issued multiple advisories about health hazards associated with the recent floods. Although the waters have receded in most areas, there is reason to take preventative measures. Tonight on Healthy Living, we find out more about the precautions that flood victims should be practicing.


Dr. Javier Zuniga, Ag. Regional Mgr., Central Health Region, Ministry of Health

“Flood waters are very unsafe. Let’s start by stating that. First of all there’s stagnant water we have many sewage system that in Belize City is not adequate for storage of sewage waste. Whenever you have floods all these stagnant water and sewage water become intermixed together and it contains many different types of bacteria, virus, fungi and parasites. Having these microorganisms of course presents then a health risk for an individual or the population on a whole. It can be detrimental in being a health hazard.”


Javier Zuniga

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Doctor Javier Zuniga is the Primary Healthcare coordinator at the Central Health Region. Currently the Ministry of Health is conducting surveillance for any potential contagious infectious diseases that may follow after a flood. The most critical period is seven to ten days, but the surveillance continues for an entire month.


Dr. Javier Zuniga

“What are we looking out for in the sense of post flooding and diseases or health conditions? One of the most important is infectious diseases primarily gastroenteritis what people would term vomiting and diarrhea. So these are things that we will be looking out for also fever, rash because skin infections can also appear on individuals who have been exposed to flood waters as well and infections of the skin, etc.”


The Ministry of Health is advising the public to take necessary precautions to avoid unnecessary illnesses.
Dr. Javier Zuniga

“Hand washing. Why? Because anything you eat, anything you drink and you touch it with your hands that have been contaminated. It can pose a threat or be a port of entry for any kind of micro bacteria or any other microorganism. If they have purified water, then there’s not a problem. But if they do not have, they have water that has been stored first of all the water has to be stored properly. It must be covered. If it is water that has been collected from the rains then it must need to undergo this purification of water.”


If you suspect your water source has been contaminated with flood waters. Then the recommendation is to treat the water with regular Clorox – using eight drops of Clorox to one gallon. You can also boil the water before drinking. Bring the water to a boil and then leave it to boil for at least one minute. Then your water is safe to consume. You should also monitor your tap water as well before using.

Dr. Javier Zuniga

“This is because you have breaks in the line that supply water to the communities. Monitoring the color of the water, the odor of the water also the taste of the water. If there’s something different than what you are use to then you should not drink that water.”


Now, it may seem like being overly careful. But keep in mind that flood waters have more than a hundred types of disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites. The other hidden risk is the growth of toxic mold in homes after water damage


Dr. Javier Zuniga

“One in a hundred is the mixture that should be used and that will kill ninety-nine point nine percent of the bacteria and it can also help in getting rid of virus and parasites and micro organisms. The walls must also be cleaned, the walls the furniture because bacteria can also harbor themselves in these furniture, etc.”


Be sure to check your food storage as well & be mindful when shopping.


Dr. Javier Zuniga

“If it comes in contact with flood water, get rid of it. Sometimes these shop owners might leave their products on the ground, look for rust around the cans and just look and see if it has been wet.”


Lastly, clean your yard. Stagnant water will harbor mosquito and then comes the threat of vector borne illnesses especially dengue and Chikungunya.


Dr. Javier Zuniga

“Now that the rain has stop, we will now put in the interventions of vector control. The most important is the ULV spraying. The public will see trucks going around spraying. We will also be doing larvicidal placement. They will place a particular chemical to kill larvae in stagnant water. Most important thing is to avoid flood waters. Please don’t even touch waters. Why because again there is a high probability that you might get some type of infection and it poses a health risk for persons exposed to flood waters.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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