What can we do to protect ourselves against water-borne diseases?

The heavy rains over many days have resulted in floods in many provinces. The water level in some places has returned to normal but some houses are still submerged. Public health officials, rescue teams and other groups are helping affected families but everyone should be aware of ways to protect themselves against diseases that can occur in the wake of flooding. Vientiane Times asked around for opinions on the matter.
Ms Manyvone Thanalard, a resident of Borikhamxay province: My family was affected by flooding this year. But we were lucky because the water level was not very high and we could remain in our house. But my children have fallen ill with diarrhoea and rickettsia and there are many people in my village who are infected with various viruses. I’m sure everyone is ill because we did not use clean water and didn’t know how to protect ourselves against viruses. I know the authorities are working hard every day but I would like to call on the health sector to advise people about ways to prevent the spread of diseases that come with floods. Everyone should understand how to protect themselves from infection.
Ms Sounthaly Pouphar, a government official in Vientiane province: I have heard about the diseases that can occur when places get flooded and how people might fall ill even after the water level returns to normal. Public health officials have helped by distributing vaccines in flood-hit areas, especially in Khammuan, Savannakhet and Attapeu provinces. But even though vaccines help to some extent, it’s not enough to protect us from everything. If possible, we should avoid swimming or getting soaked in water for a long time because the floodwaters carry germs.

Ms Vilaivone Manivong, a student at the National University of Laos: I’ve seen children in my village swimming in the floodwaters. I know they want to play and have fun, but their parents should consider their safety. It’s not just about their health - they might be bitten by poisonous animals or even drown. The floods are a great opportunity for people to catch fish, but if they want to get a lot of fish they have to spend all day in the water. This puts them at risk of infection. There might be chemicals, viruses and other harmful things in the water and maybe this is what causes illness among flood victims. I think public health officials should provide more information about  this and warn people to be careful if they have to work in the water. There should be greater awareness in order to protect people against disease.
Mr Noy Buathong, a resident of Xaythany district, Vientiane: I think it’s quite hard to tackle this problem because Lao people don’t understand what can happen and what the dangers are. Since the flooding began in my village, I have never seen any officials here to provide us with advice or information about sanitation. I’m worried about the health of children and elderly people if we have to live in such conditions for a long time. I would like to ask the authorities to give us more advice about coping with this situation and to provide vaccines to protect people against disease. We should know how to protect ourselves. We must make sure we know how to ward off diseases and should pay attention to our health. If we are healthy, we will be better able to fight off illness.

By Lamphone Pasanthong
(Latest Update August 30, 2018)

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