Govt warns outbreak of water-borne diseases

- Manish Gautam, Kathmandu

May 25, 2015-

-    Water samples from Kathmandu Valley, Sindhupalchok, Dolakha, Dhading and Gorkha test positive for coliform bacteria, including E coli

-    Experts say KUKL drinking water has high chlorine content to the point of being toxic

Above 80 percent of the water extracted from the ground or refilled from tankers and tap has been found contaminated, posing risk of water-borne disease outbreak in Kathmandu Valley, the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) warned on Monday.

The study of 215 water samples collected from Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kavre, Sindhupalchok, Dolakha, Dhading and Gorkha tested positive for high amount of coliform bacteria including E coli.

Give the sample size, the Kathmandu Valley has the highest chance of water-borne disease outbreak, a phenomenon not entirely new for the city that has been seeing sporadic cases of cholera and other diarrhoeal disease. Outside Kathmandu Valley, 13 samples were brought from Gorkha and Sindhupalchok and 14 from Kavre, among others, which have minimal chance for the spread of communicable disease.

The final test result showed that only 29 percent of the total 98 water samples collected from ground, taps and tankers was fit to drink in Kathmandu while among the 52 samples collected from Lalitpur only 23 percent was safe for drinking.

What worries experts is the high use of chlorine in water by the Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL) to the point of becoming toxic.

 “Chlorine purifies water but its usage in high amount affects public health,” said Dr Geeta Shakya, director of the National Public Health Laboratory.

The recommended range of chlorine residue in water is 0.1-0.2 milligram per litre.

Epidemic threats and preparations

As monsoon approaches near, the MoHP is on a high alert against possible outbreak of diseases like cholera and dengue. “The threat of the water and vector borne disease is always there. This monsoon we fear that it might exacerbate,” said Dr Khem Karki, member-secretary of the National Health Research Council.

Research shows that Kathmandu it is highly susceptible to dengue outbreak due to high concentration of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the causative agent of the disease.

Officials said that since many people are living in tents and are in closer proximity, there are chances of dengue, which can become life threatening when the disease develops into a haemorrhagic fever. The symptoms range from mild fever to incapacitating high fever, with severe headache, pain in muscles and joints, and rashes.

Dr Guna Raj Lohani, spokesman for the Health Emergency Operation Centre of the MoHP, said they have been raising awareness regarding hand-washing, consuming boiled water and use of mosquito nets for long.

“Our surveillance system is in place and preventing the disease outbreak remains our first priority. In any case of outbreak, our system can contain it,” claimed Dr Lohani.

Published: 26-05-2015 07:00

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