During the rainy season, health experts say the risk of people — both adult and children — catching various diseases are high due to unhygienic conditions, and not adhering to basic preventive measures.
According to Francis Kazungu, a general practitioner in Kigali, many of these diseases that come along in this season remain undiagnosed until they progress to undesirable complications.
He says it’s therefore important for people to maintain good hygiene, and seek medical help in case of any unusual symptoms.
“Early diagnosis and treatment of diseases in the rainy season is important to avoid further complications. It’s also good to understand the preventive measures of these diseases as well,” he says.
Dr Jean Damascene Makuza, the STI care and treatment senior officer at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), says hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus.
He explains that it is a waterborne viral infection generally caused by contaminated water or food by the stool of someone with the virus, and it can spread through flies. Eating fruits, vegetables, or other foods that were contaminated during handling can cause spread of the infection.
“With the disease, one can experience signs such as jaundice (yellow eyes and skin, dark urine), stomach pain, loss of appetite, nausea, fever, diarrhoea and fatigue, among others,” he says.
“In most hepatitis A cases, the liver heals within six months with no lasting damage. Management involves, rest, treatment of nausea and rest,” he adds.
Raymond Awazi, a pediatrician, says this is one of the most common diseases during the rainy season, and that people should be aware of it.
He explains that apart from just being common, it’s a highly contagious disease.
“This is due to the spread of the virus in the air which infects the upper respiratory tract and the nose and throat,” he says.
He adds that the symptoms of a common cold are a runny or stuffy nose, body ache, throat irritation, soreness and fever.
Because this is an infection, Awazi advises that in case these symptoms surface, one should consult a physician to get the required help before they spread it to another person.
Prevention lies in maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, to help one develop a good immune system and improve body resistance.
Kazungu says that this is another common and deadly bacterial disease, which spreads during the rainy season. He says it’s brought about due to contaminated food and water and also poor hygienic conditions.
“One can experience diarrhoea with watery stool and vomiting which causes immediate water loss and muscle cramps. The diarrhoea can be so severe that it leads, within hours, to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance,” he notes.
Kazungu says that cholera requires immediate treatment because the disease can cause death within hours. This can be achieved by replacing lost fluids and electrolytes using a simple rehydration solution — oral rehydration salts.
When it comes to cholera prevention measures, he says, drinking clean water (treated or boiled well), maintaining good sanitation as well as embracing hand washing is vital.
Dr Jean Marie Habumuremyi, a specialist in internal medicine at University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), says this is a waterborne bacterial infection, caused by bacteria called salmonella. Drinking and eating contaminated food can bring about typhoid.
Symptoms of the disease, he says, are prolonged fever, severe abdominal pain, headache and vomiting.
“The worst part is that when it comes to typhoid, the infection of this disease can remain in the gall bladder of the patient even after they are cured,” he says.
According to him, preventive measures include providing clean drinking water, better sanitation, and thorough hand washing.
Habumuremyi says that the treatment of typhoid includes antibiotics.
WHAT TO DO
In general, experts say there are a number of overall preventive health tips one can adopt during this season.
For instance, Awazi advises that drinking clean water is important because it prevents water borne diseases like typhoid, jaundice, gastroenteritis and diarrhoea which are common due to contamination of water.
He adds that using clean and separate hand towels is important to avoid the transmission of disease causing bacteria. Additionally, covering one’s mouth and nose with a handkerchief while coughing or sneezing is ideal.
Awazi advises to always use mosquito nets to prevent malaria, which is also common during this season.
Lastly, Kazungu says keep garments dry to avoid catching fungal skin infections, and consume freshly prepared food. All this will keep you healthy throughout the rainy season.