Doctors and hospitals in the UAE are prepared for an influx of patients seeking help for diseases and infections related to rains and stagnant water. These include typhoid and bacterial infections; and mosquito- and fly-borne diseases like dengue.

This came as the heaviest rainfall on record this week left several roads and neighbourhoods flooded. Residents in multiple communities are wading through waist-deep and knee-deep water as authorities work around the clock to drain flooded areas.

“We are already witnessing a rise in patients presenting with fever, diarrhoea, and dysentery. We anticipate a further increase in these cases … Additionally, there has been a notable uptick in pneumonia and viral bronchitis cases," said Dr Amal Abdulkader, general practitioner of Emergency Medicine at Aster Cedars Hospital, Jebel Ali.

The reasons behind this can be attributed to overcrowding during flooding, poor ventilation due to dampened closed rooms, and the inability to practise social distancing in these exceptional circumstances,” Dr Abdulkader added.

An infection control specialist said floods bring the possibility of contamination of sewage and domestic drinking water. “This contaminated water poses a high risk of diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery, gastroenteritis, amebiasis, hepatitis, typhoid, and campylobacteriosis, among others. These diseases occur when individuals consume contaminated water,” said Dr Fiaz Ahamed from Thumbay University Hospital.

The incubation period is shortly after consuming contaminated water. Affected individuals typically present with symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea, dehydration, mild fever, acute sickness, and, in severe cases, loss of consciousness.

Stagnant water risks

“Another long-term consequence of stagnant pools of water, often found after heavy rains, is their potential to become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other insects. These mosquitoes can transmit diseases such as dengue, malaria, yellow fever, and Zika, although the latter two are not prevalent in the UAE,” said Dr Fiaz.

The post-flood situation poses significant challenges for healthcare officials as “we begin to witness the after effects of contaminated water, improper drainage, and the breeding of vectors in these waters”, said Dr Abdulkader. “The most common diseases include typhoid, dysentery, amoebiasis, hepatitis, and bacterial infections. Mosquito- and fly-borne diseases are also on the rise, such as dengue, especially in crowded areas with construction sites nearby.”

Remain vigilant

Dr Abdulkader advised residents to boil and cool drinking water before use.

“Avoid stepping barefoot in stagnant water, especially if you have wounds on your legs or eczema. This can cause parasitic infestations through wounds. In flooded rooms, chlorinated solutions or bleach can be used for cleaning, and keeping windows and doors open to ensure proper ventilation.

"Dry out all soaked blankets, carpets, and curtains in good sunlight before use, as mold growth may occur in remaining dampness, which can cause respiratory problems,” Dr Abdulkader added.

Dr Fiaz said it's essential to thoroughly wash all vegetables and fruits in clean water before consuming them. “These simple precautions help ensure the safety of what we drink and eat.”

The best course of action is to remain vigilant and promptly eliminate standing water near homes or gardens to prevent mosquito breeding.

Doctors have urged residents to seek emergency medical attention if they experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, or dysentery.

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