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Flooding Brings Additional Danger of Disease: Doctor

Local villagers wait on boats to receive flood donations at Prek Sussey, Kandal province, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011. More than a thousand families in a part of Kandal province Tuesday have received

Cambodia is undergoing its worst flooding in a decade. The floodwater has inundated homes and farmland, killing hundreds and displacing thousands of people. And aside from the immediate damage, a disaster of this scale can also mean the transmission of numerous diseases, a US-based doctor said Thursday.

Floods can carry water-borne diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera, leptospirosis and hepatitis A, Taing Tek Hong, a Florida-based physician, told “Hello VOA.”

“Direct contact with polluted waters can cause wound infection, skin rashes, inflammation in the eyes, ears, nose, and throat infections,” he said.

Leptospirosis “causes a flu-like syndrome, headaches, meningitis, liver and kidney damage,” he said. “It is transmitted through contact of the skin and mucous membranes with water, damp soil, and mud contaminated with infected rat urine.”

More standing water means more mosquitoes, he said. “The risks of malaria and dengue fever increase six to eight weeks after the flooding.”

The floods have left at least 250 people dead, according to government figures. If not properly disposed of, human remains pose another risk, especially if the person died of cholera or hemorrhagic fever, Taing Tek Hong said. “Workers who handle corpses are at risk for tuberculosis, hepatitis B and C, HIV, diarrhea from viruses, bacterial infection, typhoid fever, hepatitis A, and cholera.”

Other health risks include drowning, snakebite, injury, trauma and hypothermia, he said.

For treatment and prevention of flood-related illnesses, “the most important action is the practice of good hygiene,” he said. “One should understand that clear water is not necessarily safe to drink. Drinking water should be treated by boiling for at least one minute.”

Water can also be treated with iodine or chlorine tablets, he said, “widely available in the markets.”