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Director of Emergency, Disaster Management and Special Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Marion Bullock DuCasse, is urging all Jamaicans to take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Speaking at a press briefing on October 26, at the Ministry’s National Emergency Operation Centre at the Bustamante Children’s Hospital, in Kingston, Dr. Bullock DuCasse emphasised that it is important for Jamaicans to safeguard their health and safety, by using safe water.

“We know that with the passage of the hurricane, a number of our water supply systems are not operational and there are also areas that may have been contaminated from pit latrines being washed out, as well as dirt and debris that have been deposited in the water,” Dr. DuCasse said.

She indicated that there are two recommended methods of treating the water to ensure that it is safe for drinking and cooking, which include boiling and the addition of bleach.

Commenting on the recommended treatment options, Dr. DuCasse advised that, “for boiling, we urge persons to allow the water to come to a boil and continue to boil for at least one minute before removing it from the flame.  It should then be allowed to cool before it is safe for use.”

When using household bleach as a treatment agent, Dr. Bullock DuCasse advised that two drops of bleach should be added to 1 litre/1 quart of water, half teaspoon of bleach should be added to 20 litres/5 gallons of water, and 4 ½ teaspoons of bleach to 170 litres/45 gallons of water. Once the bleach is added, it should be mixed well and left for 30 minutes before it is used.

“By these methods, we are hoping to reduce many of the water borne diseases,” she said,  adding that the Ministry hopes to have no reported cases of gastroenteritis or leptospirosis.

Gastroenterisitis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestine which results in diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain and cramps.

Additionally, Dr. Bullock  DuCasse informed that the organism that causes leptospirosis may be present in contaminated water and can enter the body through mucus membranes, that is the lining of the eye, nostrils, the mouth and through the skin.

She pointed out that the main areas are the large pools of water that have settled in homes and on the roads as a result of the passage of  Hurricane Sandy, and she is strongly advising persons to stay away from these pools.

Caused by the bacteria, spirochete, leptospirosis, commonly transmitted through the urine of rats, can result in typical flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, muscle pains and fever, jaundice, and meningitis.

Dr. Bullock Ducasse is imploring  persons  to visit their medical doctor or the nearest health care facility, if the signs of gastroenteritis or leptospirosis become evident.