WATCH OUT FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASES
Climate is one of several important factors influencing the incidence of infectious and other diseases. Certain diseases tend to be more prevalent in the rainy season.
Due to the wet weather that the country has recently experienced, the Health Watch Desk decided to find out diseases to watch out for in the rainy season. General Practitioner (GP) Dr Jonathan Dlamini from Lulama Health Clinic in Manzini was engaged on the topic and outlined the following diseases that are characterised with wet weather:
Common cold and flu:
This is a very common infectious disease of the respiratory tract. Signs include cough, runny or congested nose, sore throat, headaches muscle pain and loss of appetite.
It is very common because it is easily transmitted.
Transmission is air borne. This means when an affected person sneezes or coughs into the air, the disease is transmitted or by direct contact with secretions or contaminated objects.
Transmission can happen in a bus or kombi or any public place where a lot of people are interacting e.g. in a bank, a cinema, a fast food store etc.
The common cold, including chest cold and head cold, and seasonal flu are caused by viruses. They can be treated with over- the- counter (OTC) cold medications to relieve symptoms.
What to eat
Diet high in Vitamin C, fruits and vegetables.
Signs include sneezing, cough and red eyes.
Avoid allergens and get a doctor’s prescription
Lower respiratory tract infection (pneumonia):
Cough, chest pains, fever. - See a doctor.
Diarrhoeal Diseases: This is an illness caused by eating contaminated food. Food poisoning does not mean one’s food was poisoned by another as is commonly understood. It’s the result of infection by any of a large group of bacteria like Salmonella, viruses and parasites.
The signs include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain. Food poisoning occurs all year round but is increasingly common in the rainy seasons because of the ease of food contamination then.
Diarrhoea diseases of importance include Typhoid, Cholera, Dysentery, Hepatitis A.
Typhoid fever is a classic; this is transmitted through consumption of water or food contaminated with a bug called salmonella.
If sanitation is poor, it spreads rapidly. Severe or untreated typhoid can lead to perforation of the intestine which is a life threatening surgical emergency.
Patients have a severe deterioration in their general condition with severe abdominal pain and require surgery to repair or exclude the damaged intestine.
Cholera; This is also transmitted through consumption of contaminated water and food. It is characterised by severe watery diarrhoea. It rapidly leads to severe dehydration and death if not treated promptly. It spreads rapidly from one person to another.
Dysentery; In Dysentery the diarrhoea is characterised by the presence of mucus and blood in the stool.
Hepatitis A; This is a highly contagious infection of the liver by a virus. It affects the liver and patients typically have pain in the abdomen, especially over the area below the rib cage on the right, where the liver is situated.
They also are fatigued, have nausea, vomit and show diarrhoea among others.
If you are concerned and have any of the above symptoms visit your GP. If your GP diagnoses one of these diarrhoea diseases, he will notify the department of public health to rapidly arrest the spread before it progresses to an epidemic.
Diseases affecting joints and connective tissues, also called Rheumatism, tend to get worse in the rainy seasons because of temperature and pressure changes. Skin diseases also tend to get worse. Contact your GP to find out if it is something that needs intervention.
Malaria: This is transmitted by a bite from an infected mosquito. The mosquito that transmits malaria breeds in waterlogged areas and in pools of stagnant water. Common symptoms include:
Headache, fever, chills and rigours, weakness and muscle pain. Clear all water pools in the home and neighbourhood, clear small bushes and shrubs and clean your water tank regularly.
You can also prevent infection by wearing long sleeved clothing at night, using insect repellants and sleeping under a mosquito net!
Dengue Fever; Though uncommon in Swaziland, it follows a distribution similar to Malaria. Prevention is similar.