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Day Zero: Diseases You Should Watch Out For

Health • by Ryno Ellis • 06 February 2018
Having little to no water poses a threat to your health as the spread of diseases significantly increases. We take a look at some of the diseases that pose the greatest threats when Day Zero strikes.

Cape Town is currently experiencing the worst drought in more than a millennium. The drought has reached a point of no return which has introduced Capetonians to a term we all know and dread: Day Zero.

Day Zero, which is expected to take place in early May, refers to the day almost all municipal water will be shut down, leaving residents to collect water daily from more than 200 water points across the city.

State officials have confirmed that hospitals will not run out of water as boreholes are either being drilled or re-activated.

Although this will help minimise the outbreak of diseases, the biggest worry is that with so little water to use at home, diseases will spread and flourish easily in our homes.

Here are three of the most common diseases that could become a threat with a lack of water and how to avoid them:

1. Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis, more commonly known as Gastro, is caused by either a bacterial or viral infection of the lining of the stomach or the intestines. These bacteria or viruses are transmitted either by contaminated food or water.

Symptoms: Extreme stomach cramps, runny tummy, vomiting and severe dehydration.

Prevention in Day Zero: Regularly clean hands with antibacterial soap (wash with little water for 10 seconds or more) or waterless hand sanitiser. Only drink clean and safe water that was bought by a reputable source. Thoroughly clean surfaces where food is prepared. Also, clean utensils to avoid cross-contamination.

2. Typhoid

Typhoid has received some media attention recently with more than twenty cases reported in the Western Cape in 2017. Typhoid is caused by the bacterium, Salmonella Typhi . This bacterium is spread through contaminated food and water.

Symptoms: Usually symptoms will start showing around day three after infection and will start with a gradual fever. Other symptoms include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, headaches, weakness, dehydration and in severe cases, a rash.

Prevention in Day Zero: Set aside a small amount of water for personal hygiene (washing hands) and cleaning surfaces where food is being prepared. Top tip: Use antibacterial products when cleaning surfaces.

3. Salmonella

One of the most common causes of food poisoning is caused by the salmonella bacterium. Possible causes of salmonella infection include contaminated raw meats, especially poultry, contaminated water, pets and fertiliser.

Symptoms: Salmonella infection includes severe stomach cramps, bloody stools, fever, diarrhoea, feeling cold and having the chills, dehydration and headache.

Prevention in Day Zero: Use only clean water to wash food, especially meats. Be sure to thoroughly cook food and avoid eating raw chicken, pork and eggs. Don’t leave food, especially meat, outside in the heat. Set out a small amount of water to clean surfaces before preparing food.

Feeling sick? Visit your GP asap!

If you suspect that you’re ill and showing any of the abovementioned symptoms, don’t hesitate, visit your GP as soon as possible.

With GetSavvi Health you get unlimited access to GPs on our list of more than 2 000 doctors across the country. To find out more about our benefits, click here and fill out the form. A GetSavvi Health consultant will then be in contact very soon.

Also read:

Day Zero: Practising good health

Can you survive on 50 Litres of water a day? Here’s how to try 

INFOGRAPHIC: What can you do to reduce water consumption 

24 biggest day zero water crisis concerns and questions answered


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