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Floods And Risk Of Disease


Floods is an overflowing of water onto land which is normally dry. Floods are one of the phenomenon that often occurred in the country. Floods often happen every year from September to February in the states of Malaysia, mostly due to heavy rains.

Floods can leave some side effects on all living things and ultimately leading to death. The ramifications of floods can be shortlisted below:

  1. Destruction of Property : Heavy floods could sink residential houses and discarding as well as damaging other household items such as electrical goods, car, important documents and certificates etc. It brings great loss to the population.
  2. Disease: The worst part of flooding is that it causes great harm to human health. This is due to incidence of contagious/communicable diseases spreading during and after the flood.
  3. Death: Flooding also can lead to loss of life, especially in areas with lower grounds and some population living near to the river.
  4. Costs to Government : Floods often damaging public property such as roads, buildings, telephone, electricity and cause a variety of diseases. The government is held accountable to fix the damages and pay for medical equipment. This requires high maintenance costs. Besides, the government also have to provide basic necessities such as food and beverages, medicines as well as providing temporary shelter for flood victims.

Floods and Risk of Disease

The floods that occurred cause garbage and faeces out of the reservoir along the overflowing water. Rubbish and other waste material that scattered all over the place will triggering various infectious diseases. Among the infectious diseases that thrive during and after the flood is as acute respiratory infections, conjunctivitis (sore eyes), leptospirosis, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, cholera, typhoid fever, food poisoning, dengue, infection skin, measles, ‘foot, hand and mouth disease’ (HFMD), malaria and chicken pox (Flood Management Guidelines, 2008).

  1. Water and Food Borne Disease

Water and food borne diseases often occur during and after floods. The diseases are often diagnosed from flood victims such as typhoid fever, cholera, hepatitis A, dysentery and food poisoning. Symptoms of the disease include diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, and headache. The infection occurred through drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated by the germs. The disease is highly contagious and dangerous. The incidence of the disease is monitored and controlled by the medical and health officers and environmental health officers appointed by the government.

One of the preventive measures that should be adopted is to make sure the water to be used came from clean and safe sources, always wash hands with clean water, drinking water which was cooked beforehand, eating freshly cooked meals, peel the skin of fruit before eating, avoid eating raw vegetables, use clean water when washing vegetables, fruits, raw materials and all equipment during the preparation of food and drink, and choose clean and hygienic food court when dining outside. Besides, choose food handlers that had received an injection of anti-typhoid when dining outside.

  1. Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by Leptospira sp bacteria found in the urine of four-legged mammals such as rats, cats, dogs, cows and so on. The disease can be transmitted to humans who are exposed or contact directly with water or flood water that has been contaminated with the urine of animals that have been infected with the bacteria. Among the symptoms of leptospirosis are fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, eye redness, rash, abdominal pain, jaundice and dark coloured urine. (Flood Health Information Manual, n.d.).

Preventive measures that should be adopted is to ensure the cleanliness of the home environment, cover the meals with a lid in order to avoid spoilage and avoid pests, always wash your hands and take care of personal hygiene, do not play around near flood water and standing water, especially after flooding and lastly, wash and dress the wounds on the bodies so that they are not exposed to flood water.

  1. Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis or eye pain is a disease that often occurs during flooding. The disease is easily spread from one person to another through the sharing of personal devices such as towels, pillows and handkerchief with the infected person. The diseases caused by germs (bacteria or virus) or an allergic inflammation of the whites of the eyes (sclera). Among the symptoms are eye pain, red eyes, watery and bitter feeling; excessive eye discharge, eye itching and sensitivity to light.

Preventive measures that should be adopted is always wash your hands with soap and water after touching the eyes and any surface, avoid contact with infected people and do not share any personal items.

  1. Dengue Fever

After the floods recede, many areas that could become potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Therefore, it is the responsibility of all parties to ensure that there is no place that can hold water such as plastic, used beverage cans and polystyrene containers during floods. Containers must be disposed properly. Every householder must also ensure that their home environment is free from mosquito breeding grounds.

Dengue fever is caused by the Aedes mosquito. Among the signs of dengue is sudden onset of fever, with severe headache, pain behind the eyeballs, pain in joints and muscles (myalgia and arthralgia, severe low back pain also called fever break-bone fever) and itching hives. The characteristics of dengue fever inflammation is bright red spots, and usually appear on the bottom – in some patients, it spreads almost to the whole body. Marks on the skin which is a classic whole body skin turns reddish punctuated with patches of normal skin colour (island of white in a sea of red). Also, there are chances of gastritis with a combination of abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. Patients can also get inflammation of the liver, inflammation of the brain (more in children), and in exceptional cases inflammation of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy).

Classic dengue fever last for six to seven days after peaking at the end of fever (known as biphasic pattern). Clinically, the blood cell count freezer (platelet) will drop followed by a loss of fluid blood plasma from blood vessels into a tissue or a third (third space loss between the lining of the lungs, the peritoneum, and so on), since the blood capillaries becomes brittle (capillary fragility). At this stage, the patient is exposed to the risks of shock and bleeding.

Security Measures to Be Taken:

During the floods, always follow the instructions of the appointed officers or authorities:

  • Move immediately to the evacuation centre when directed.
  • Do not let children play in flood waters.
  • Switch off all electrical switches, the main water supply and gas valve before leaving home.
  • Always protect the elderly, children and pregnant women.

Take Care Of Your Health:

  • Make sure to drink water which have been cooked beforehand or drink bottled drinks.
  • Always consume cooked meals while it still hot. If you are eating fruits, peel off the skin first and avoid eating raw food.
  • Take care of personal hygiene and the environment; always wash your hands with soap and clean water, use sanitation facilities and the waste bins properly.
  • Get immediate medical attention if you experience fever, diarrhoea, vomiting etc.
  • Follow the advice given by the health officers and the authorities.


  1. Flood Health Information Manual. n.d. Disease Control and Health Education Division. Ministry of Health Malaysia. Putrajaya.  
  2. Flood Management Guidelines (Health). 2008. Ministry of Health Malaysia.   Retrieved from http://www.infosihat.gov.my/infosihat/isusemasa/pdf/Jlid 1 – FWBD UMU GP 001.pdf                  
Last Reviewed : 23 August 2017
Writer : Pn. Anis Ahmad binti Lathpi
Translator : Pn. Anis Ahmad binti Lathpi
Accreditor : En. Mohamad Ridzuan bin Mohd Salleh