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Dysentery: Foods should be prepared hygienically – Onyejimbe

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AS the festive season draws closer, it is important that people be more watchful of their eating habits. They should as a matter of necessity observe healthy living and cut down on items that might be harmful to their health.

Many have spent their vacation with  bad stomach bugs which  might be traceable to dysentery, a painful intestinal infection that is usually caused by bacteria or parasites. Dysentery is defined as diarrhea in which there is blood, pus, and mucous, usually accompanied by abdominal pain as stated by experts

The main symptom of dysentery is frequent passing of near-liquid diarrhea flecked faeces/ stool with blood, mucus, or pus.

Other symptoms include:

Sudden onset of high fever and chills, abdominal pain, cramps and bloating, flatulence (passing gas). Urgency to pass stool, feeling of incomplete emptying, loss of appetite, weight loss, headache, fatigue, vomiting and  dehydration

Other symptoms may be intermittent and may include recurring low fevers, abdominal cramps, increased gas, and milder firmer diarrhea. You may feel weak and anemic, or lose weight over a prolonged period (emaciation). Mild cases of bacillary dysentery may last four to eight days, while severe cases may last three to six weeks. Amoebiasis usually lasts about two weeks

According to the Director of Public Health, Anambra State Ministry of Health, Dr. Uchechukwu Onyejimbe, good hygiene should be observed while cooking especially  during the festivities.. Findings show that,  there’s usually outbreak of dysentery after the festive period, after a carrier must have passed the two to three weeks incubation period, he cautioned

Onyejimbe stated that dysentery is a group of intestinal diseases that is characterised by watery or soft stool, usually more than three times a day. It can be caused by a virus (ROTA Virus which is common in children), bacteria ( shigella which  is para-typhoid and typhoid) and protozoa (Amoeba).

He said that all these can be air borne or water borne and usually transmitted by flies. Dysentery is an epidemiological disease, which usually occurs during dry season and sometimes through outbreak of flood. Flood carries faeces with germs from in-lands, pollute drinkable water, people advertently or inadvertently drink this water without sanitising it.

Sometimes, wastes are dumped on the street, when the rains come and fall on it, it will wash down all the impurities and draw germs from the waste into the ground water and when boreholes are dug deep to get drinkable water from the ground water, the already contaminated water are assumed to be clean and drinkable.

However, water should be boiled before drinking.  99.8 per cent of sachet water are contaminated, being that producers of these sachet water get already contaminated borehole water, package it for drinking for the public without sanitising it. He noted

However, dysentery can also be contacted sporadically through a point source or a carrier who is not aware he or she is carrying the disease and when this carrier prepares food for people, they carry the bacteria from the source and an outbreak occurs. The disease is usually curtailed through epidemiological study,  which is done by tracing the source and time of the disease. People are screened and treated thereafter.

Making the diagnosis

If a doctor suspects dysentery, a stool sample usually will be required for analysis. For bacterial infections such as shigella, the diagnosis is made by culture of the stool. Unfortunately, such cultures are not available in most developing countries and the diagnosis is made clinically on the basis of symptoms. Amoebiasis is often diagnosed by finding parasites under a microscope. An antibody blood test helps to confirm the diagnosis of amoebic dysentery or liver abscess.

Prevention

Dysentery can be prevented to some extent by practicing environmental hygiene. People should put their environment in order to avoid sewage that might bring in ratus norwagicus, these are big rats that carry germs into the house

Also, observe personal hygiene, People who travel to areas with high rates of dysentery should take the following advice:

Do not eat any food cooked in unhygienic circumstances, such as from street vendors.

Only eat cooked foods that have been heated to a high temperature. Do not eat cooked foods that have cooled.

Do not eat raw vegetables. Avoid species of fruits without peels. Open fruits with peels yourself.

Drink only commercially bottled or boiled water. Do not use ice unless it has been made from purified water.

Use only bottled or boiled water to wash and to cook food, wash hands, and to brush teeth. Consider traveling with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

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