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Health system on flood alert, residents warned against serious diseases

A section of Albouystown under several inches of water

The Ministry of Health on Wednesday warned residents in Georgetown and coastal areas to stay away from flood waters as much as possible to avoid deadly diseases like Leptospirosis and diarrhea.

“In light of the increasing rainfall and the flooding in Georgetown and surrounding areas, the Ministry of Health is advising the general public to pay special attention on water safety and personal hygiene,”  said the ministry in a statement.

Back in the 2005 Great Flood, more than 34 persons reportedly died from Leptospirosis.

The Health Ministry’s warning came even as weather forecasters predicted that cloudy conditions are expected to continue over the next six to 12 hours. The heaviest rainfall is expected to be over Regions 2 and 4 recording between 50 and 100mm.

Meteorologists said Tuesday night to Wednesday morning’s rainfall was as a result of a high pressure system over the Bermuda which was dominant and forced the inter-tropical Convergence Zone to shift from its last position, taking t directly over Guyana’s Coast. Authorities explained that the heavy rainfall experienced over the early hours of today, was brought on by a shift in the inter-tropical Convergence Zone from its last position, to about six degrees north of the equator bringing it directly over Guyana’s Coast

As a result, the heavy downpour caused flooding in parts of Regions 2, 3 and 4. This six-hour rainfall of 128.9mm or 5.1 inches which was recorded at the Botanical Gardens was the highest recorded data analysed for Georgetown since 1892. This morning’s rainfall had an intensity of 21.5mm per hour, compared to 6.9mm per hour in 2005 and 5.9mm per hour in 2004.

Authorities said they did not expect this weather system. “The weather forecast up to midnight last night did not indicate or provide any warning of the weather condition experienced,” the Government Information Agency (GINA) said in a statement.

The Health Ministry said an Emergency Medical Response Team has been established to address any public health threats due to flooding in Georgetown and its environs. 

The team was organised today by the Ministry during a meeting of health officials which included the Minister of Health Dr Bheri Ramsaran, Chief Medical Officer Dr Shamdeo Persaud, Director, Regional Health Services, Dr Monica Odwin, CEO, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) Michael Khan and Civil Defence Commission’s Major Kester Craig. The team is also liaising with other key stakeholders such as the Mayor and City Council, Government Health facilities and pharmaceutical warehouses.

All Health Centers have been placed on alert to provide adequate response by detecting, treating and managing patients with symptoms of water borne and other diseases.  Adequate medical supplies have also been provided.  The Ministry assured that there is enough supply of Oral Rehydrating Salts, bleach and chlorine tablets as needed. 

Two outreach teams have been mobilised to serve the Albouystown and Festival City communities until the flood is over. 

Public Health Advisories have been issued through the media and will also be sent to the school system whilst doctors are being sent to strengthen staffing in various municipalities, government said. The Ministry says it is relying on Cuban trained Guyanese doctors to provide this additional support.

Prior to the meeting, the Ministry was monitoring the situation and Minister Ramsaran is urging parents to supervise their children and keep them out of the flooded areas.

Damage to other Municipal Health Centres is being reviewed whilst outreaches are being planned for other affected areas.

Following is the full text of the Ministry of Health’s advisory:

  If you are living in flooded areas, stay out of the water as much as possible, as it can  greatly reduce your chances of contracting diseases such as skin infections, Leptospirosis, Diarrhoeal diseases and other water-borne diseases.

Keep children out of water as they are at risk of contracting diseases

If you must go into the water, use protective foot wear such as long booths.  Prepare a foot bath of ½ cup of bleach to 1 bucket of water and wash your feet before entering the house, then apply Vaseline or oil to your skin as it forms a barrier and provides some protection from the dirty water.

During rainfall you may notice an increase in mosquitoes.  Protect yourself and family against mosquitoes by sleeping under mosquito nets, use mosquito repellents and coils and cover storage containers to reduce breeding sites.

Use safe water for drinking, cooking and brushing your teeth, and for making ice and drinks.  Safe water is water treated with bleach (PUR, Chlorosol) or boiled or bottled water.

Keep food separate, protected from the flood water.

Throw away all food that has been in contact with flood waters.

Wash all fruits and vegetables with treated water and peel before eating.

Keep all food items and drinking water in sealed containers

Cook food thoroughly.

Wash hands thoroughly with soap and safe water or use hand sanitizers, especially before and after eating meals, after going to the toilet or latrine and taking care of the children.

Use the toilet or latrine and dispose baby’s diapers properly.  Do not mess or let feces get into the water.

Keep rubbish bins closed

Watch out for animals.  Snakes and centipedes that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours.  Use a pole or a stick to poke and turn items over and scare them away.

If your home was seriously affected by flood water and you suspect electrical wiring have been damaged, have it checked by a qualified person before turning the main electrical switch.

Know the location of the main electrical breakers and the gas and water valves in your home and ensure the path is clear to access them easily so that you can shut them off in emergencies.

Turn of the main electrical switch and other utilities

Place important documents and valuables in plastic and store them in a safe place.

In case of illness please visit the Georgetown Public Hospital or the nearest health center.

For additional information, please call Ministry of Health on 226 7400 or 226-1560, 226-1224, 226-5164, 225-2420