Specialist Corner Hygiene, both personal & surrounding, can keep you safe this monsoon It is raining with a vengeance. Some may call it an excellent monsoon, others a respite from the unbearable heatwave that continued to rob people of every drop of energy till the rain gods decided to pour relief! However, the fact cannot be ignored that despite its various benefits, the rainâ€”or should we say, municipal incompetencyâ€” also leads to the outbreak of a number of ailments. The dampness, muck and stagnant pools of water are ideal breeding grounds for disease-causing microorganisms. While almost anyone can a fall prey to these diseases, children are most likely to fall sick. Many of the ailments can be avoided by following some simple hygienic and civic rules. Here are major causes of concern and their preventions: Cholera: An acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. People who eat food or drink water contaminated by these bacteria have a high chance of getting infected. Its signs include: Frequent, painless watery stools; vomiting and dehydration (sunken eyeballs, wrinkled and dry skin). Prevention: Make sure you drink safe and clean water only. If unsure, boil drinking water (upon reaching boiling point, extend boiling for three or more minutes). You may also do water chlorination. Keep food away from insects and rats by covering it. Wash and cook food properly. Dispose of human waste properly. Use the toilet properly and clean it every day. Wash hands with soap and water after using the toilet and before eating. Keep your surroundings clean to prevent files, other insects and rodents from breeding. A World Health Organization (WHO) prequalified oral cholera vaccine is available for travellers and people in endemic areas. It is given in two doses and offers protection for years. Hepatitis A: It is a virus that may be transferred from one person to another through the ingestion of food contaminated with human waste and urine of those who are already suffering from Hepatitis A. Signs include: Fever and flu-like symptoms like weakness, muscle and joint aches, loss of appetite, dizziness (with or without vomiting), abdominal discomfort. After a few days, jaundice may follow. Prevention: Wash hands after using the toilet, before preparing food, and before eating. Dispose human waste properly. Wash properly and then thoroughly cook or steam the food, especially meat, fish, eggs and vegetables. Practice safe handling and storage of food and water. The disease is self-limiting and may last for one to two weeks. Patient often recovers even without treatment. Typhoid Fever: An infectious disease, also known as enteric fever or just typhoid, that spreads through contaminated food and water or through close contact with someone who is infected. Signs include: Sustained high fever, headache, malaise, anorexia (loss of appetite), either diarrhoea or constipation and abdominal discomfort. Prevention: Avoid drinking untreated water. Boil water for drinking (upon reaching boiling point, extend boiling for two or more minutes) or do water chlorination. Cook food well and always cover food to prevent contamination from flies and other insects. Avoid eating unsanitary street-vended foods. Wash hands with soap and water after using the toilet and before eating. Keep surroundings clean to prevent breeding of flies. Get immunized with WHO pre-qualified oral injectible vaccines. Influenza: A viral infection that attacks the respiratory system. It is transmitted through contact with a person who coughs or sneezes, or with surfaces, material and clothing contaminated with the discharges of an infected person. Young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people who have weakened immune system are at risk to this disease. Signs include: High fever, headache, runny nose, sore throat, cough and muscle or joint pain. Prevention: Avoid crowded places. Cover mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. Wash hands frequently. Take annual flu vaccine. Minimize contact and distance yourself by at least one meter from the infected person. Leptospirosis: A bacterial infection transmitted when urine and faeces of infected animals such as rodents, contaminate the soil, water and vegetation. A person may get leptospirosis by ingesting contaminated food or water, when broken skin and open wounds, or when eyes, nose, sinuses and mouth come in contact with contaminated water (usually flood water) or soil. Incubation period of bacteria is 7-10 days. Signs include: Fever, muscle pain, headache, calf-muscle pain and reddish eyes. In severe cases it may cause liver/brain involvement or kidney failure. Yellowish body discoloration; dark-colour urine; light stools; low urine output and severe headache. Prevention: Avoid swimming or wading in flood water. Use boots and gloves. Drain potentially contaminated water. Control rodents in the household by using rat traps or rat poison. Maintain cleanliness in the house. Dengue: It is transmitted through the bite of an Aedes mosquito. Dengue fever is potentially fatal and mainly affects children. Prevention: Cover water drums and water pails at all times to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Replace water in flower vases once a week. Clean all water containers once a week. Scrub the sides well to remove eggs of mosquitoes sticking to the sides. Clean gutters of leaves and debris so that rainwater will not collect as breeding places of mosquitoes. Puncture or cut old tires used as roof support to avoid accumulation of water. Collect and dispose all unusable tin cans, jars, bottles, and other items that can collect and hold water. Malaria: The most notorious disease of the developing world, malaria is caused by the protozoan Plasmodium spp. (P.vivax, P.falciparum, P.malariae or P.ovale). The disease is spread by the female Anopheles mosquito that transfers the pathogen from an infected person to a healthy one. Signs include: Fever occurring at regular intervals (usually every day at the same time). Headaches, nausea accompanied by bouts of shivering; muscle pain and weakness. Prevention: Protect yourself from mosquitoes by using mosquito repellents and nets. Do not allow water to stagnate as mosquito larvae thrive in stagnating water. Ask your municipal authorities to spray your area with a mosquito repellent and clear any stagnating pools. If there is a lake or pond near your house, then introduce gambusia fish in it. These fish feed on mosquito larvae and can help control the mosquito population. If the patient is showing the symptoms listed above, see a doctor immediately. Malaria can be very harmful if not treated in time. The doctor will prescribe quinine-based anti-malarial drugs (such as chloroquine or primaquine). These drugs should be taken strictly as prescribed, as over-dosage can prove harmful. Special care should be taken if the patient is a child or a pregnant woman. Anti-malarial drugs might not agree with patients already suffering from renal failure, epilepsy, cardiac disease, hepatic insufficiency or dermatitis, so watch for any side effects. The patient should be kept warm and be given bed rest. The drugs might cause nausea and vomiting, which in turn may lead to dehydration. Patients must consume plenty of fluids (soups, juices, broth) and electrolytes to prevent dehydration.