Pakistan floods: Six ways in which flooding affects health

The flooding that has affected large areas of Pakistan over the past few weeks have killed more than 1,500 people and made tens of millions homeless, however the death toll for the end of the year is expected to be considerably more. From illness to disruptions to healthcare flooding can have a negative impact on health in various indirect and direct ways. They are also likely to increase in frequency because of the climate change as well as rising sea level. What makes floodwater such a risk? Is there anything the nations can do to lessen the death toll?

Floods can cause extensive destruction to livestock and crops which affects both the quantity as well as the quality of foods that is available.

1. Drowning and acute injuries

The floods account for 40 percent in all natural catastrophes globally and is the cause of about half of the deaths that result from them. The majority of deaths result caused by drowning, especially due to people being trapped in their vehicles while trying to travel through the floodwaters. There are also deaths when people are knocked down by swiftly moving water, because of excessive exertion electrocution or hypothermia or due to being struck by objects that are caught in the floodwater, like falling trees. These injuries might not be fatal instantly, but they can kill in the weeks or days following the incident, like due to wounds being infected by bacteria that are present in floodwater.

carbon monoxide poisoning is also frequent, since people utilize pumps engines, as well as pressure washers in order to wash or dry out structures without sufficient ventilation.

2. Disease

Clean water access is usually a major issue aftermath of massive flooding. Floods can cause sewers overflow, which can lead to contamination of drinking water which increases the chance of contracting gastrointestinal illness, and poor hygiene and overcrowded shelters may exacerbate the problem.

The recent floods that hit Bangladesh caused massive outbreaks of gastroenteritis caused by bacteria especially the pathogenic E. E. coli, with cholera outbreaks typically begin around eight days after the flood event that caused the first. The rapid dispersal of oral cholera vaccine can reduce the risk, but the process of distributing it to communities affected by flooding isn’t easy.

Other illnesses caused by floods include typhoid disease and Hepatitis A and E Norovirus, rotavirus, and typhoid fever. Inhaling the floodwater, or breathing it in, may also trigger Lower respiratory tract infection, such as pneumonia, and eye and skin conditions or Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease) that spreads via contact with urine from rodents.

As the floodwaters recede the stagnant pools of water could become breeding areas for mosquitoes, thereby increasing the chance of contracting mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue fever and malaria. There has already seen an increase in cases of dengue in Pakistan as of more than 3 830 deaths and the number of cases that health officials have reported in Sindh province at the time of 15 September 2022. Officials from the health sector have noted an rise of malaria diarrhoea, diarrhoea, and skin diseases following the floods.

3. Poisonous creatures

There are many other species of humans who are left homeless due to flooding. Animals, such as spiders and snakes can look for refuge in storage sheds, and other structures especially if they have been damaged. The urgent treatment of antivenin is required for people who have been bitten by poisonous snakes. However flooding may also limit the access of treatment

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