Lagos residents in flooded areas prone to respiratory infections, worm infestation –Epidemiologists

It has been a harvest of heartrending tales for Nigerians, especially those living in coastal states like Lagos in the past few weeks as the rains continue to unleash deluge that leaves trails of losses and deaths.

However, beyond the unquantifiable devastation, Public health physicians have advised Lagos residents living in flooded areas to be health conscious and adhere to warnings issued by relevant authorities for them to relocate temporarily.

The physicians said those ignoring the warning and are still living in flooded homes, may come down with respiratory infections and worm infestations.

The senior health professionals, who spoke during an exclusive interview with PUNCH Healthwise, said flooding comes with several health challenges, noting that it exposes people to skin infections and water-borne diseases.

A professor of Public Health and President, National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, Ijanikin, Akin Osibogun, said people living in flooded houses may suffer life-threatening respiratory and diarrhoeal diseases.

The consultant public health physician and epidemiologist said living in flooded environments heightens drowning risk, besides the health implications.

Giving further insight into the risk, the don said, “First, they are faced with the risk of drowning. But more importantly, diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases are usually transmitted in such environments because of the dampness.  It is easier for microbes to grow and multiply in such places.”

The former Chief Medical Director of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital said the government and other relevant agencies have been announcing and issuing flood alerts for the year but that nothing was done to mitigate its effect.

“At times, you may need to move people living in flood-prone areas from where they are living for a temporary period until the flood recedes, “ he added.

The professor said the state government has a responsibility to protect the health of the people and also protect valuables.

Meanwhile, the Minister of State for the Environment, Ishaq Salako, had earlier revealed that the ministry now has a flood warning system that alerts people five days ahead of time.

“In the Ministry of Environment, we have added flood warning systems, so we can give a five-day warning that in five days, from all the parameters we have, floods are likely to happen in such and such areas,” he said.

The Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency, Mustapha Ahmed had in August, warned that there was a high risk of coastal flooding in Bayelsa, Delta, Lagos, and Rivers States.

Ahmed gave the warning in Abuja during the public presentation of the 2023 Climate-related Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation Strategies, jointly produced by the Nigerian Hydrological Services and Nigerian Meteorological Agency.

The NEMA boss said no fewer than 665 people died, while 3,181 were injured across the country during the 2022 flood.

A Public Health Physician and Epidemiologist, Dr. Japhet Olugbogi, told our correspondent that flooding contaminates water bodies and spreads infections.

Shedding more light on the health implications of living in flooded homes, the Medical Officer of Health, Ifelodun Local Council Development Area of Lagos State, said all manner of infections are seen in flooded areas, warning that even reptiles could find their way into homes.

According to him, there are certain health risks associated with a place that is waterlogged.

The epidemiologist said, “Flooding has long-term implications and those affected may not know that it is the cause of their health problems.

“They may have general body itching because of worm infestation.  So, people who live in houses where there is flood stand the risk of long-term effects of worm infestation.”

On the way forward, he said, “It is recommended that in flooded areas, people should relocate from their for health sake.

“Drinking water is easily contaminated by flood. It is advisable for people whose houses are flooded to relocate to a neutral ground. Also, when there is a warning about flooding, the government should endeavour to relate to the people.”

A resident of Somolu, an area that usually witnesses perennial flooding, Mr. Job Adewale, said residents’ experiences have been horrible since the rainy season began.

He said the area had been facing flooding problem, noting that residents are usually displaced, while property are destroyed.

Another resident, Mrs. Abigail Adekanbi, appealed to the state government to address the issue of flooding in the state and blamed her living in “a deplorable environment” on the prevailing economic conditions.

The state Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Tokunbo Wahab, urged residents of the state to desist from dumping refuse in drainage channels.

He reiterated the readiness of the present administration to proffer a lasting solution to the issue of flooding and urged residents to play their part towards ensuring a hygienic environment.

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