- HOW TO COMBAT CHOLERA
What is cholera? What are its symptoms? And how can you catch it?
What is cholera?
Cholera is a bacterial infection. It’s usually transmitted through contaminated drinking water or food that’s been washed with contaminated water.
What are the symptoms?
Some people don’t experience any symptoms but typically those infected notice white bits in their stools, which can look like grains of rice. Other symptoms include:
• severe vomiting
• feeling sick
• stomach cramps
• watery diarrhoea
• a high temperature.
How soon do symptoms appear?
Quite quickly, usually between 1-2 hours, but they can take up to five days.
What should I do if I think I have cholera?
You must seek medical help as soon as possible. Even if it doesn’t seem too bad, but you have vomiting and diarrhoea, you may quickly become dehydrated. If left untreated, cholera can be fatal.
What should I be aware of?
Dehydration can be the biggest problem with a bacterial infection like cholera. Even mild sickness and diarrhoea causes the body to lose a lot of water and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium and bicarbonate). This leads to dehydration, which comes in three stages:
1. Early dehydration. This has no signs or symptoms.
2. Moderate dehydration. This is indicated by thirst, restless or irritable behaviour, decreased skin elasticity and sunken eyes.
3. Severe dehydration. This is indicated by shock, diminished consciousness, lack of urine, cool, moist extremities, a rapid and weak pulse, low or undetectable blood pressure, and pale skin.
How can I protect myself from cholera?
• Drink and use safe water: this can be bottled water with an unbroken seal, boiled water or water treated with a chlorine product
• Treat piped water as it may not be safe: use a chlorine bleach product or boil it before drinking
• Wash your hands often with soap and safe water: if there’s no soap, scrub hands with an anti-bacterial gel
• Cook food well (especially seafood): eat it hot, keep it covered, and peel fruit and vegetables
• Clean up safely: in the kitchen and in places where your family bathes and washes clothes
• Use toilets where available: if there’s no toilet, bury any faeces 30 metres away from any body of water.
Why handwashing is an important defence
Handwashing with soap and safe water is one way to help prevent the spread of cholera as soap helps remove dirt and cholera germs from hands.
You can help protect yourself and your family from becoming ill with cholera by making sure you wash your hands regularly. Unwashed – or poorly washed – hands can transfer cholera germs to food, water, and household surfaces and quickly spread the disease.
Find out more about effective handwashing
3 tips to beat cholera
1. Be aware. You can still have and pass cholera on even if symptoms are not present. Faeces will still contain the bacteria for 7-14 days after infection.
2. Wash your hands. If you wash your hands properly, according to the advice from the World Health Organisation, it should take as long as singing ‘Happy Birthday To You’ twice.
3. Stay hydrated. If you contract cholera, make sure you drink plenty of water to replace lost fluids.
Myths about cholera
Myth: If water looks clean, it’s safe to drink.
Fact: It’s not possible to tell if water is safe to drink just by its appearance.
Myth: You can build up an immunity to the germs in the water supply.
Fact: You can’t build up any sort of immunity to cholera or typhoid
What are coughs, colds and RTIs? What are the symptoms? And what can you do to prevent you and your family catching them?
What are RTIs?
Respiratory tract infections or RTIs are any illnesses that affect the sinuses, throat, airways or lungs. These can range from the common cold or a chesty cough to a more severe condition, such as pneumonia. RTIs are highly contagious and can spread quickly.
Different kinds of coughs and colds.
There are two main types of coughs and colds:
1. Upper respiratory tract infections which affect the nose, sinuses and throat. These types of infections include:
• the common cold
These are generally less severe than lower respiratory tract infections and symptoms include a cough (the most common symptom), headaches, blocked or runny nose, sneezing, aching muscles, and a sore throat.
2. Lower respiratory tract infections affect the airways and lungs. These types of infections include:
Symptoms can include: a cough that is generally more severe, bringing up phlegm or mucus when coughing, tightness in the chest, rapid breathing, breathlessness or wheezing.
How do we catch coughs and colds?
Coughs, colds and RTIs are spread through direct or indirect exposure to viruses and bacteria.
Direct exposure is a result of viruses and bacteria travelling from an infected person to someone else. When an infected person sneezes, tiny droplets of infected fluid travel through the air to be easily breathed in without realising. That’s why it’s recommended that we cover our mouths when we sneeze or cough.
Indirect exposure occurs when an unwell person passes on their germs by touching something that someone else then touches. The other person will pick up the germs – usually on their hands –and then ingest them by touching their mouth or food and drink.
How can I protect myself from catching a cold or RTI?
There is no guaranteed way to prevent catching a cold or other RTI, but there are several ways you can protect yourself and your family:
• Wash your hands regularly with soap and clean water. Read more about handwashing techniques
• Use tissues to cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. These will stop any germs spreading. It’s a good idea always to do this even if you’re not feeling ill, as you may have an infection without realising it.
• Wash your hands after blowing your nose or covering your mouth to cough or sneeze. This helps get rid of any bacteria on your hands.
• Eat a balanced and healthy diet. This means lots of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. They’ll help your body fight off infections.
How can I make myself better?
Your body should be able to fight off most coughs and colds in roughly 1-2 weeks. Drink plenty of clean water and try to keep your strength up by eating lots of healthy foods.
Paracetamol and ibuprofen can help manage the symptoms. You will find that the symptoms pass within 1-2 weeks.
If you find yourself becoming worse or the symptoms carry on after two weeks, contact your doctor for advice. But if you have any pre-existing heart, lung, liver, kidney conditions or cystic fibrosis, see your doctor as soon as you notice symptoms.
4 quick tips to beat coughs and colds
1. Wash your hands: read more about handwashing techniques.
2. Use tissues: cover your mouth with a tissue when you sneeze and then throw it in the bin to make sure you limit the potential of others becoming exposed.
3. Replenish your natural defences: try to eat vitamin-rich fruit and vegetables to make sure your body has the strength to attack invading viruses.
4. Use a hand gel: in between washes
Myths about the common cold
Myth: Feed a cold, starve a fever.
Fact: Your body needs the calories and fluids to help it fight the infection.
Myth: Going out in the cold makes you ill.
Fact: The common cold is a virus. You can catch it inside in the warm as well as outside in the cold.
Myth: Wearing garlic prevents colds.
Fact: Eating garlic can help boost your immunity and strengthen your body’s resistance to viruses.
What is diarrhoea? What causes it? And how can you prevent it?
What is diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea is when you have frequent and watery stools. Although diarrhoea is often harmless, it can lead to dehydration, so it’s best to keep a close eye on the very young or elderly if they have it.
What causes diarrhoea?
It’s usually your body reacting to a virus or infection. It can be contracted through eating or drinking infected food or water. It can also be contracted by touching someone infected and then not washing your hands. Common causes include:
- viruses: like the norovirus or rotavirus
- bacteria: such as Campylobacter and Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is usually from contaminated food
- parasites: which are often ingested from contaminated water like Giardia, the parasite that causes giardiasis.
What’s the most important thing I should know about diarrhoea?
Dehydration can be the most harmful effect of diarrhoea. When someone is ill with diarrhoea they can lose fluids and electrolytes very quickly. Electrolytes are essential bodily salts and include sodium, chloride, potassium and bicarbonate.
The 3 stages of dehydration:
Stage 1: Early dehydration. This has no signs or symptoms.
Stage 2: Moderate dehydration. Symptoms include: thirst, restless or irritable behaviour, decreased skin elasticity and sunken eyes.
Stage 3: Severe dehydration. Symptoms include: shock, diminished consciousness, lack of urine, cool, moist extremities, a rapid and weak pulse, low or undetectable blood pressure and pale skin.
How can I treat diarrhoea and dehydration?
It’s vital to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes if you have diarrhoea. Oral rehydration salts (ORS) can help. They’re a mixture of salts and sugar that must be dissolved in clean water. Zinc supplements may also help as they can reduce the volume of your stools by 30%. See your doctor if you’re worried.
How can I protect myself and my family?
Use only safe water. All water – whether it is for drinking or cooking – needs to be boiled for one minute to kill any harmful germs.
Prepare food hygienically. Wash all fruit and vegetables with clean water. Make sure all bowls, plates and utensils are washed in boiling water.
Wash your hands regularly. This will help to kill any harmful germs before they can spread.
4 top tips to tackle diarrhoea
1. Wash your hands. If you wash your hands properly, according to the advice from the World Health Organisation, it should take as long as singing ‘Happy Birthday To You’ twice.
2. Keep clean. Washing regularly is your best defence. Make sure that all food, food preparation areas, and utensils are clean.
3. Keep hydrated. To avoid losing a dangerous amount of fluid during a bout of diarrhoea, make sure you drink plenty of fluids on a regular basis.
4. Seek help. If you’re not getting better or if your symptoms are severe, contact your doctor immediately
What is typhoid? What are the symptoms? And how can you prevent you and your family from becoming infected?
What is typhoid?
Typhoid, or typhoid fever, is a serious bacterial infection. You should seek medical attention immediately if you’re worried that you may be at risk.
What causes typhoid?
A bacterium called Salmonella typhi causes typhoid. It’s similar to the Salmonella bacteria that cause food poisoning, but with more serious symptoms.
How do you catch typhoid?
The bacteria that cause the disease live in the faeces and urine of an infected person. If someone eats food or drinks water that’s been contaminated with even a small amount of infected faeces or urine, they can become ill with typhoid.
What are the symptoms?
• fever and chills
• red spots on the chest and abdomen
• a high temperature 39-40°C (103-104°F)
• confusion, delirium and hallucinations
• constipation or diarrhoea (sometimes with bloody stools)
• abdominal pain
You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you’re at all worried, especially if you’re in an area where typhoid is prevalent. Typhoid is most common in Africa, the Indian subcontinent, South East Asia and South America.
What should I do if I think I have typhoid?
Get medical treatment as soon as possible. Typhoid fever can be treated with a course of antibiotics. If you’re diagnosed at an early stage, the infection is likely to be mild and can usually be treated at home with a 1-2 -week course of antibiotics.
The infection can become far more serious if left untreated, so see your doctor if you’re at all concerned. In the meantime, don’t prepare food for other people and always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after going to the toilet.
How can I protect myself from typhoid?
• Wash your hands properly with soap and water. This is particularly important after using the toilet and for anyone who’s preparing food. Read more about how to wash your hands properly.
• Boil drinking water. It needs to be boiled for at least 1 minute to kill the bacteria.
• Cook with boiling water and wash fruit and vegetables with cooled, boiled water.
4 top tips to tackle typhoid
1. Always wash your hands with soap and water, particularly after going to the toilet or cleaning a baby’s bottom.
2. Cook food thoroughly and eat it when it’s hot.
3. Peel fruit and vegetables before eating.
4. Avoid shaking hands and communal eating, especially at funerals or burials.
Myths about typhoid
Myth: You can tell if someone’s infected.
Fact: Someone can look healthy and still be infected with the disease.
Myth: You no longer have the disease when you start to feel better.
Fact: You may still be infected even if you start to feel better.
Myth: I’m immune to the disease because I’ve had a typhoid vaccination.
Fact: The jab won’t give you 100% immunity, so it’s important to stay vigilant.
What is MRSA? What are the symptoms? And how can you prevent infection?
What is MRSA?
MRSA or Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus is a bacterial infection. Unfortunately, it’s resistant to many antibiotics, which can make it difficult to treat. For that reason, it’s called a ‘superbug’. It can live on an infected person’s skin as well as in their ears, nose and throat.
How do you catch MRSA?
MRSA is often spread through skin-to-skin contact. But it can also be picked up from surfaces or objects that an infected person has touched. It can also get into your bloodstream if you become infected through a wound or graze. It often infects people who are already ill.
What are the symptoms?
• fever with a high temperature
• chest, muscle and joint pains
• boils and abscesses – some people may mistake these for insect or spider bites
• extreme fatigue
• shortness of breath
What should I do if I think I may be infected?
See your doctor. This is particularly important if you have a fever, or already have an infection that doesn’t seem to be getting better.
What should I be aware of?
Surprisingly, a lot of people can carry this infection on their skin or in their nose and ears. They may never become ill or have any symptoms. But if someone is already ill, their immune system will be lowered, and if they then pick up MRSA it can make them very poorly.
Why hand washing is an important defense
Hand washing with soap and safe water is one way to help prevent the spread of MRSA as soap helps remove dirt and bacteria from hands.
You can help protect yourself and your family from becoming ill with MRSA by making sure you wash your hands regularly. Unwashed – or poorly washed – hands can transfer bacteria to food, water and household surfaces, rapidly spreading disease.
Find out more about effective hand washing <link to article on hand washing>
How can I protect myself from MRSA?
- Wash your hands often with soap and safe water: if there’s no soap, scrub hands with ash or sand and rinse with safe water.
- Always wash and cover open wounds: this will prevent infection.
- Use your own towels: this helps to prevent the bacteria being transferred from person to person.
- Wash clothes and sheets: MRSA can live on materials for a long time.
3 quick tips to keep you safe from MRSA
1. Always wash your hands. Washing your hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and water is one of your best defenses.
2. Use clean dressings for wounds. This prevents the bacteria entering the bloodstream.
3. Wash clothes and sheets on a high temperature. 60 degrees is the recommended temperature.
Myth: MRSA isn’t treatable.
Fact: Although it’s resistant to many antibiotics, it can be treated. However, prevention is always better than cure.
Myth: MRSA is impossible to prevent.
Fact: Although it can spread very quickly on clothes, surfaces and through skin-to-skin contact, it can be prevented with thorough hand washing and vigilance, especially around the very young, elderly or ill.
What is Ebola? What are its symptoms? And how can you catch it?
What is Ebola?
Ebola is a serious disease, caused by a virus, that can cause internal bleeding.
It currently mainly affects West Africa, specifically the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. But there have been rare cases reportedly elsewhere in the world.
What are the symptoms of Ebola?
They can include:
• abnormal bleeding
• joint and muscle pain
• intense muscle weakness
• stomach pains.
How soon do symptoms appear?
They start suddenly and occur between 2 and 21 days after becoming infected. Contact a doctor immediately if you notice these symptoms and have recently been to West Africa, or have been in contact with someone who has.
How can you catch Ebola?
Ebola isn’t airborne. The disease can only spread through direct contact with an infected person. It can be passed on through close bodily contact and fluids, like blood, urine, semen, and vomit. It can also enter the body through broken skin and the mucous membranes in the nose.
Are there any other ways to catch Ebola?
It’s not just the living who can transmit the disease; the dead can also pass it on. For that reason, burial ceremonies involving contact with the corpse play a key role in spreading Ebola.
Animals can also be infected. Ebola outbreaks often begin with human contact with an infected animal. Gorillas, chimpanzees, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelopes and porcupines are most susceptible to the disease.
What should I do if I think I have Ebola?
If you do start showing the symptoms of Ebola, contact a medical centre immediately and follow their advice closely. Keep away from others so they don’t contract the disease and be careful with your vomit, diarrhoea and other bodily fluids to prevent the disease spreading.
How can I protect myself from Ebola?
Although you cannot be protected 100% against Ebola, you can take steps to significantly decrease your chances of catching it:
Avoid physical contact with anyone who is or may be infected. If that’s not possible, wear gloves and other protective clothing and avoid direct skin-to-skin contact. These protective items should then be carefully disposed of.
Always wash your hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and clean water. Read more about how hand washing can prevent disease<link to hand washing article>
3 tips to avoid Ebola
- Be vigilant. Be aware of the people around you and be on the lookout for Ebola symptoms.
- Be careful. Limit your contact with others as much as possible. Do not touch bodily fluids.
- Be thorough. Hand hygiene is one of the ways you can help prevent catching this disease. Read more about Why washing your hands can prevent disease <Why washing your hands can prevent disease>
Myths about Ebola
Myth: Ebola can be transmitted by mosquitos.
Fact: It can only be transmitted between mammals.
Myth: Ebola is airborne.
Fact: The disease can be spread only through close bodily contact.
Myth: You can catch Ebola from drinking water.
Fact: Ebola is not a waterborne disease.
Simple hand washing is one of your best weapons against disease. Here’s how to do it effectively…
In the battle against disease, prevention is always better than cure. Whether you prevent a minor illness or something more serious, it’s better to take precautions that will help keep you stay safe and healthy rather than suffer an infection.
Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) says washing your hands is ‘probably the most effective contribution you can make to public health’ besides vaccination.
Why is hand washing so important?
Bacteria and viruses spread easily and quickly through touch. If someone with flu covers their nose when sneezing but then simply wipes their hands afterwards, the germs will still be present. These germs can then spread to any surfaces they touch and if someone else touches that surface, they would pick up the germs.
How do I wash my hands effectively?
It’s easy to take hand washing for granted. After all, many of us won’t have been shown how to do it since we were children. Surprisingly, it takes up to 40-60 seconds to wash your hands properly. So what’s the right way?
Step 1: Wet your hands with clean water.
Step 2: Apply enough soap to cover both hands.
Step 3: Rub your hands palm to palm and then in between your fingers. Sing ‘Happy Birthday To You’ twice to make sure you’re washing your hands for long enough.
Step 4: Rinse with clean running water.
Step 5: Dry your hands using a clean towel or paper towel.
Step 6: Turn off the tap with the towel.
Take a look at the World Health Organisation’s guide to hand washing.
When should I wash my hands?
Always wash your hands:
• after using the toilet, blowing your nose and touching someone else or any animals
• before eating or preparing food.
This helps to kill any bacteria on your hands immediately, and reduces the risk of harmful germs spreading further. It’s a simple thing that can make a lot of difference.
What is hand rubbing?
This method can be used if you don’t have access to clean water or soap but you do have hand sanitizer. Don’t use this method if you have any visible bodily or other infectious fluids on your hands. Hand rubbing should last between 20-30 seconds.
Step 1: Apply a palmful of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Step 2: Rub your hands together palm to palm.
Step 3: Place the palm of one hand over the back of the other. And interlock your fingers. Rub up and down.
Step 4: Now place your hands palm to palm. And interlock your fingers. Rub up and down.
Step 5: Then interlock the back of your fingers to its opposing palm. Rub up and down.
Step 6: Rub each finger and thumb individually with a clasped hand.
Step 7: Wait for your hands to dry.
Take a look at the World Health Organisation’s guide to hand rubbing.
3 quick tips for effective hand washing
1. Wash your hands thoroughly with clean water and soap for around 40-60 seconds.
2. Only use hand sanitizer if there is no clean water or soap available, and make sure you rub your hands together thoroughly.
3. Always wash your hands before eating and preparing food.