Post-flood diseases begin to haunt evacuees in Jakarta

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Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Muhammad Hamim, 62, swept away the mud from his house in Kampung Pulo, East Jakarta yesterday. Inundation in the flood-prone area had started to recede as residents began cleaning up and searching for their belongings.

Although feeling nausea and dizzy, Muhammad said he had to start work on cleaning his house as well as finding clothes that he had left when water had started to inundate his home.

"I only have what I'm wearing," he said. "I'm actually sick, but what else can I do? Everyone here is busy with their own difficulties."

Muhammad said he now had to share everything with everyone, including a place to stay and a toilet.

Renny Setyawati, a doctor on duty in Kampung Pulo, said people had complained about acute respiratory infections (ISPA), skin infections, hypertension, colds and coughs.

"We handle mild ailments, while patients with severe illnesses are referred to the Budi Asih Hospital in Cawang, East Jakarta," said Renny, who was standing by at the National Police's health post during the turmoil.

Jakarta Health Agency head Dien Emmawati said that the city administration had prepared 92 hospitals for reference, with a total of up to 21.7 billion rupiah (US$2.26 million) in aid.

The agency, she said, pledged to cover all expenses spent on medical treatment for flood victims at those hospitals.

But what haunts residents the most is the threat of an outbreak of sanitary-related diseases.

According to Dien, the most common diseases attributed to floods are skin infections, influenza and muscle aches.

She said that mosquito-borne viral diseases, like dengue and Chikungunya fever, rat-borne leptospirosis and diarrhoea were now threatening those affected by the floods.

"Such diseases can occur as people, most of whom refuse to be evacuated, come into contact with flood water containing bacteria from sewers and rivers," Dien explained.

"Moreover, after the flood is gone, the water consumed by people is often contaminated, which can lead to diarrhoea. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that transmit Chikungunya and dengue fever are also attracted to the water during these times."

Leptospirosis is spread through the urine of rats, whose habitat is often destroyed by floods, and can infect anyone with open wounds who come into contact with contaminated water or garbage, or who swallows contaminated food or water.

Symptoms of leptospirosis are similar to those of dengue fever, such as fever with initial shivers, severe headache, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, change in the colour of the skin and the whites of the eyes, muscle pain mostly in the calf area, diarrhoea and a skin rash.

Meanwhile, at the Budi Asih Hospital, a line of patients waited to receive treatment at the emergency room, with only one doctor standing by for registration. The line included not only patients of flood victims, but also other people.

A receptionist who declined to be named on protocol issues, said the hospital was struggling to cope, stating: "We are overwhelmed by the high number of visits from flood victims."


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