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Jamaicans urged to safeguard drinking water

Saturday, October 27, 2012 | 11:24 AM    

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KINGSTON, Jamaica - Director of Emergency, Disaster Management and Special Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr Marion Bullock DuCasse, is urging Jamaicans to take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Speaking at a press briefing on October 26, at the Ministry’s National Emergency Operation Centre at the Bustamante Children’s Hospital, in Kingston, Dr Bullock DuCasse emphasised the importance of safeguarding one’s health by using purified water.

“We know that with the passage of the hurricane, a number of our water supply systems are not operational and there are also areas that may have been contaminated from pit latrines being washed out, as well as dirt and debris that have been deposited in the water,” Dr Bullock DuCasse said.

She indicated that there are two recommended methods of treating water to ensure that it is safe for drinking and cooking - boiling and the addition of bleach.

Commenting on the recommended treatment options, Dr Bullock DuCasse advised that, “for boiling, we urge persons to allow the water to come to a boil and continue to boil for at least one minute before removing it from the flame. It should then be allowed to cool before it is safe for use.”

When using household bleach as a treatment agent, Dr Bullock DuCasse advised that two drops of bleach should be added to one litre/(one quart} of water, half teaspoon of bleach should be added to 20 litres/5 gallons of water, and 4 ½ teaspoons of bleach to 170 litres/45 gallons of water. Once the bleach is added, it should be mixed well and left for 30 minutes before it is used.

“By these methods, we are hoping to reduce many of the water borne diseases,” she said, adding that the Ministry hopes to have no reported cases of gastroenteritis or leptospirosis.

Dr Bullock  DuCasse informed that the organism that causes leptospirosis may be present in contaminated water and can enter the body through mucus membranes, that is the lining of the eye, nostrils, the mouth and through the skin.

Caused by the bacteria, spirochete, leptospirosis, commonly transmitted through the urine of rats, can result in typical flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, muscle pains and fever, jaundice, and meningitis.

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