After Nargis, Myanmar may face vector borne diseases: WHO

May 16th, 2008 - 7:25 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) After the havoc wreaked by Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar is likely to face a vector-borne disease outbreak due to the flooding, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned. Forty percent of the children are malnourished in Myanmar, where the official death toll from the cyclone is 35,000 besides tens of thousands affected.

“Major health problems in Myanmar which are most likely to be exacerbated by this crisis relate predominantly to communicable diseases (malaria, dengue, measles) and malnutrition, especially in children,” the WHO said.

The world heath watchdog has underlined that 40 percent of children under five are assessed as being stunted, indicating chronic malnutrition, and 10 percent as suffering from acute malnutrition.

The UN body said: “Access to the public health system, which was already inadequate, has been severely affected, and the capacity of the surveillance system to detect and respond to epidemics has been further weakened”.

“Given the structural damage caused by the cyclone and flooding of water supplies, there is an additional risk of waterborne diseases affecting large numbers of the urban, rural and displaced populations,” it said in a report.

In addition, extensive damage to infrastructure and distribution systems, as well as power supplies, will make it virtually impossible to prepare food safely, posing an additional risk of food borne diseases, the report underscores.

The Southeast Asia office of WHO headquartered in New Delhi is keeping a close watch on the diseases related developments in Myanmar.

The global body said the situation is alarming as the areas devastated by the cyclone and flooding “produce 65 percent of the country’s rice, 80 percent of the aquaculture, 50 percent of poultry and 40 percent of pig production”.

“Damage to these industries may have a longer-term effect not only on domestic supply but also on importing countries which purchase rice from Myanmar such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, although exports have decreased over recent years,” WHO said.

It said most cases of dengue in Myanmar occur between May and October with July being the peak month. In the current circumstance, the country is likely to see an increase in the numbers of patients with injuries and trauma, leading to greater difficulties in the early detection of symptoms of dengue.

Besides, displaced populations will be at an increased risk of malaria with the extension of vector breeding sites due to storm damage and flooding.

It also warned that population displacement caused by the cyclone can result in overcrowding in resettlement areas, raising the risk of transmission of certain communicable diseases. Measles, acute respiratory problems, diphtheria and pertussis would see a rising trend as they transmit from person to person.

WHO said to curb any potential outbreak of vector-borne diseases, 13,000 insecticide-treated bed nets have been sent to Myanmar, and another 20,000 will be dispatched shortly.

Five hundred dengue test kits have also been sent to the country to help detect dengue cases in the cyclone-affected areas. Forty thousand tablets of the insecticide deltamethrin are also being despatched to prevent the spread of diseases due to vectors and pests.

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