Monday, January 03, 2005

Life after Tsunami - Pure Water; Source of Sustenance

The deadly and devastating tsunami has struck and gone leaving behind its scrawling signature of death and maimed lives across the southern east coast of India and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In one swoosh, the sky-scraping death waves on December 26 last year piled up a mountain of dead bodies and grief. The post-tsunami days are going to be more deadly than the killer waves. Health hazards are likely to bring another wave of death unless precautionary steps are taken. Those in the tsunami hit areas and people going to the region need to be extremely careful about their health. Here are some lurking hazards and steps to prevent an outbreak of disease and death.

3 Agents of Death – Cholera, Diarrhoea and Malaria

Most areas in the tsunami hit regions do not have pure drinking water. Standing water can be as deadly as moving water or waves.

  • Ensure that you take only your drinking water. Avoid all surface water. If you are going to the region, take a load of bottled drinking water.
  • Any natural disaster will activate the three agents of death: cholera, diarrhea and malaria. (See below on the agents of death)
  • Beware of respiratory-tract infection
  • Avoid taking non-vegetarian food, especially fish.
  • Look out for fever or a churning in your stomach.
  • Many, especially children, may suffer from phobias. They would need proper counseling (See below on the phobias)
  • Many may suffer from post-traumatic Stress Disorder (See Below)

Agents of Death

Diarrhoea involves frequent and loose motions. The major cause is infection. Fever (high temperature) occurs with the diarrhea. Initial first aid approaches to this involve fluid replacement, with electrolyte solutions and sponging down with tepid water. Paracetamol may be tolerated, but might possible irritate the bowel more.

Cholera is usually transmitted through contaminated water or food. Patients with cholera typically develop acute, watery diarrhea and dehydration. Cholera can be successfully treated by rapid oral or intravenous fluid and electrolyte replacement.

It can be prevented by educating the public about food and water safety, the importance of hand washing, and the need to use latrines or toilets. Because cholera can spread swiftly through a population particularly when you are in a relief camp. Early detection of cases is necessary in order to start education and sanitation activities rapidly and to identify possible sources of infection. Foods which can tansmit cholera include raw or under cooked seafood, particularly shellfish, and raw fruits and vegetables. Acidifying foods with lemons, tomatoes, yogurt, or fermented milk helps to inhibit vibrio cholerae growth.


Malaria epidemics tend to occur in areas of unstable malaria, where communities have little acquired immunity, leading to widespread morbidity and mortality. Malaria epidemics cause suffering to displaced populations and refugees. Prevention is based on: evaluating the risk of exposure to infection preventing mosquito bites by using DEET mosquito repellent, bed nets, and clothing that covers most of the body.


General situational phobias involve specific kinds of anxious feelings triggered in situations with common physical or environmental elements.

AGORAPHOBIA: Agoraphobics feel unnerving pre-panic-attack sensations and anxieties when they perceive they are cut off from exits, sources of safety, or when alone.

CLAUSTROPHOBICS react similarly in situations that appear physically confining or crowded.

NECREPHOBIA: Fear of death

HYDROPHOBIA: Fear of water


THALASSPHOBIA: Fear of the sea


Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flash-backs, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged, and these symptoms can be sever enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person’s daily life. PTSD IS marked by clear biological changes as well as psychological symptoms.

PTSD occurs in conjunction with related disorders such as depression, substance abuse, problems of memory and cognition, and other problems of physical and mental health.

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