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Diarrhoeal diseases affect people of all ages throughout the world, but children are the most vulnerable. Diarrhoea is the second leading cause of death in children under age five.
There is no single disease to cure here, though, which is why it is so high in the mortality table. A collection of diseases are at fault here, caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites. The only thing in common is that one symptom.
More than 80% of all diarrhoeal deaths occur in Africa and SouthEast Asia.
Most people reading this book will probably not have any problems with diarrhoeal diseases, as you are probably living in a developed country and generally avoid the causes of the diseases anyway.
But, diarrhoeal diseases are infectious, so even if you yourself don’t have any habits that promote it, people you come in contact with might.
Infectious organisms that cause diarrhoea are primarily transmitted by an oral-faecal route, such as through food that is prepared in a non-hygienic kitchen, or through contact with people with poor hygiene.
Treatment and prevention of diarrhoeal diseases mostly involves hygiene and promotion of general health, such as:
1. Keeping the patient hydrated. Diarrhoea’s main symptoms are poor absorption of water in the large intestine, and increased secretion of water in the small intestine. Since the body is losing water, you need to replace that water.
2. zinc treatment
3. Vaccinations, including rotavirus and measles. Since the vaccine was invented, a lot of the more serious diseases have become preventable, including some that cause death by diarrhoea.
4. Breastfeeding of children. Breastfeeding helps improve the immune system in the child because the mother’s milk contains white blood cells that help boost the system.
5. Handwashing with soap. Washing with water doesn’t kill bacteria or parasites. Soap helps to kill them off, and also makes it easier for you to dig into hard-to-clean areas.
6. Generally improved water supply and storage. Since bacteria and parasites can be spread by water, it is best to keep your house-hold water clean.
7. Promote sanitation in your community. There’s a reason why the human psyche has an in-built aversion to dirty things. Keep your surroundings clean and encourage your friends and neighbours to do so as well.
Beyond the general approach above, the causes of diarrhoea need to be treated separately. Luckily, most of the causes are easily remedied through vaccination. Cholera, rotavirus, shigellosis and typhoid are examples.