News / Asia

Pakistan Flood Aftermath Creates Danger of Epidemics

Flood victims in Pakistan
Flood victims in Pakistan

Multimedia

Waterborne illnesses are making the flooding victims in Pakistan increasingly desperate for medical help. Health and social workers warn that if aid does not come soon, the outbreak of potentially fatal diseases is imminent. Prevention costs very little. But if these diseases do break out, cramped conditions make it possible for them to spread very quickly.

As the flood waters recede in Pakistan, the danger of infection among the flood victims rises.  Experts say the camps where people have taken shelter are potential breeding grounds for malaria, cholera, and other gastrointestinal diseases.

Most people in these camps are already complaining of infections caused by contaminated water. Amanullah Khan worries about his children.

Amanullah Khan
Amanullah Khan

"The skin of [the] children's feet is getting infected," Khan said. "They also have upset stomachs and gastric problems. All sorts of ailments are affecting them. They are also getting eye infections."

When people with diarrhea and upset stomachs feel dehydrated, they will drink dirty water, if it's the only water available - and expose themselves to still more disease.

Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases [NIAID] says contaminated water can lead to not just one, but many infections.

"You could get hepatitis, you could get e-coli, you could get salmonella, and you can get dysentery," he said. "So the possibilities of diarrheal-born diseases are enormous when you have such a catastrophe of this magnitude where you have tens of millions of people displaced in conditions where you don't have clean water."

So far more than 1,600 people have died in Pakistan and more than six million others are homeless, according to a United Nations report. The U.N. also reports more than 120,000 cases of suspected dengue fever and malaria.  Millions also suffer from diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, and skin infections.

Dr Peter Hotez is an expert in tropical medicine at George Washington University. He is concerned that the intense summer heat and the lack of good hygiene create the perfect conditions for a cholera epidemic.

"The reason I am so concerned about cholera is that we know that when people are living under extreme circumstances where there are breakdowns in sanitation such as in the flood waters of Pakistan, we know that cholera can emerge in violent epidemic outbreaks," he said.

Health facilities in the camps are so thinly spread that cases of acute diarrhea are being treated as though they were cholera, just as a precaution.

Dr. Hotez warns that cholera can kill within hours by causing diarrhea-based dehydration.  He says a vaccine is the cheapest way to protect a large population from this disease.  But if vaccines are not available, the next  best solution is to have cholera victims drink a simple solution of sugar and salt, in clean water.

"It's a very low-cost, simple life-saving technique that can prevent in some cases 90 percent of the deaths if delivered rapidly," Dr. Hotez said. "Oral rehydration, sitting and giving sips in larger quantities, and the key is to give the right amount of sugar and salt."

International agencies and local charities are providing basic medicines, such as anti-malarial tablets, antibiotics, and oral rehydration packets to avoid severe dehydration. But with millions of people still homeless, and aid agencies fear that a health crisis could still be brewing.

You May Like

Video Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid