After heavy rains lashed many parts of North India, the National Capital has been dealing with a flood crisis, with water levels in the river
reaching an all-time high — flowing at over 208 meters — on Thursday. While the water levels have started slowly receding, several areas of the city such as Kashmiri Gate, ITO, and Rajghat, are still reeling under water-logging.
In such a condition, there is going to be a public
emergency if enough attention is not given.
“There can be major health issues that can creep up now as well as when the water level goes down,” says Dr. Manoj Sharma, Senior Consultant- Internal Medicine at Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj. Here are some potential health concerns associated with this event:
The floodwaters of the Yamuna River may become contaminated with various pollutants, including sewage, industrial waste, and other harmful substances. This contamination increases the
of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A, and gastroenteritis. Ingesting or coming into contact with the contaminated flood water can lead to these infections.
Flooding creates stagnant water, which becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever, malaria, and chikungunya can spread rapidly during and after the flooding as the mosquito population proliferates. The increased presence of these disease-carrying insects raises the risk of outbreaks.
Skin infections and dermatological issues
Direct contact with contaminated flood water can cause skin problems and infections. Open wounds or cuts that come into contact with the polluted water are particularly vulnerable to
. Skin rashes, irritations, and fungal infections may also arise due to prolonged exposure to unclean water and unsanitary conditions.
Mental health impact
Flooding can be a traumatic experience for individuals and communities. Displacement, loss of property, and disruption of daily routines can cause significant stress and anxiety. The long-term psychological impact can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and other mental health disorders.
Dr Shuchin Bajaj, Founder Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, elaborates on the following conditions:
The stagnant water can release foul odors and promote the growth of harmful bacteria and molds, leading to respiratory issues and exacerbating existing conditions such as asthma and allergies. If you live near the overflowing river, keep your windows closed and use air purifiers to maintain indoor air quality. In case of persistent respiratory problems, seek medical advice.
Flooding can affect the safety of food supplies. It can contaminate crops and cause foodborne illnesses if proper hygiene practices are not followed during food preparation. Ensure that food is properly cooked and stored in hygienic conditions. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean water before consumption.
Dr. Vishal Sehgal, President, Portea Medical (MBBS, DNB-Orthopaedics), shares the following potential health risks and how to prevent them:
Risk of electrocution
The inundation brings about the potential for electrical hazards and the risk of electrocution. it is essential to exercise caution around electrical hazards, avoiding contact with power lines or submerged electrical equipment.
The cold water can induce hypothermia, and the heightened moisture levels contribute to the easy spread of respiratory infections. Adequate warm clothing should be worn to prevent hypothermia, and individuals should seek shelter. In case of shivering or confusion, high temperature, an individual should seek immediate medical assistance.
There is also a heightened risk of animal bites like snakes. In flood like situations, providing animals with shelter is kind, but avoid provoking or approaching unfamiliar animals. If bitten, thoroughly clean the wound and seek medical attention for evaluation, possible vaccination, and tetanus prophylaxis.
PREVENTION AND SAFETY
To prevent these water-borne diseases due to flooding, Dr. Kamal Verma, Senior Consultant, Department of Internal Medicine, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad, shares the following precautions:
- Keep areas around the house dry and prevent water accumulation.
- Wear full-sleeved clothes, particularly during the night, to reduce exposure to mosquitoes.
- Avoid eating outside junk and packed food items that may be contaminated.
- Apply mosquito repellent creams and use mosquito nets at home to protect against mosquito bites.
Dr. Divya Singh, Senior Surgeon, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and Director, Maaiya Social Change Front Foundation:
- Avoid exposing the mouth, nose, and eyes to floodwater.
- Boil water intended for drinking and food preparation.
- Avoid walking in flooded or standing water.
Dr. Hardik Sankhla, Project Coordinator at National Health Authority:
“Drink safe water, practice good personal hygiene, avoid direct contact with floodwater, protect against mosquitoes, and follow official instructions. Prioritize your well-being by staying informed, taking necessary precautions, and seeking medical help if needed.”
Dr Sabine Kapasi, Public Health Leader, United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination and Geneva:
“Stay informed and follow the instructions and guidelines provided by local authorities regarding evacuation, road closures, and safety measures. Comply with their guidance on precautionary measures to ensure your overall well-being. Stay vigilant, take necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family, and seek medical assistance promptly if you experience any health issues or flood-related symptoms.”