Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – February 14th, 2006

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

February 14, 2006

U.S. C. Diff Infections, Deaths on the Rise

An increase in infections caused by the intestinal bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. diff) has been reported in 15 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The infection typically strikes older hospital patients who have taken antibiotics, officials said, adding that national occurrences of the C. diff infection are also on the rise due to an overuse of antibiotics that are killing off the “good” bacteria used to control the growth of Clostridium difficile bacterium.

As reported in the Associated Press, since 1997 the number of deaths attributed to C. diff in New Jersey has doubled, killing 400. Additionally, state health records show the bacteria sickens 10,000 New Jerseyans each year. In 2003 alone there were 109 deaths attributable to the infection, while in 2004 there were 25 reported C. diff outbreaks in New Jersey hospitals. Of those affected patients, only about 1 percent developed serious complications. An outbreak is defined as at least three instances of C. diff infection in one hospital or nursing home setting within a week.

Increased C. diff infection rates have also been reported in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Connecticut.

C. diff infection is marked by severe diarrhea that persists for more than three days. It can lead to the more serious intestinal condition, colitis. C. diff is spread by spores in feces that cannot be killed by alcohol-based, anti-bacterial hand cleansers often used in hospitals. Health officials recommend surface areas exposed to feces should be cleaned with bleach, and a regime of frequent hand washing with hot water and soap should be practiced, especially after restroom use and before eating.

For more information from the CDC on Clostridium difficile, please go to:
CDC Assessment of Indonesia Tsunami Aftermath Released

Seven months after the December 26, 2004 South Asia tsunami, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc. (CARE) and International Indonesia conducted surveys in three districts of Aceh Province (Aceh Besar, Banda Aceh, and Simeulue) to determine the health and nutrition status of the affected populations, and to evaluate the effectiveness of relief interventions. The new statistics were reported in the January 28th issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

An estimated 230,000 persons in India, Indonesia, the Maldives, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand perished in the 2004 tsunami, while 500,000 persons were displaced from their homes and 37,000 remain unaccounted for in the province, according to CDC figures.

At the time of the survey, the highest proportion of displaced households was in Simeulue (32.3%), followed by Aceh Besar (22.4%) and Banda Aceh (15.8%). Displaced persons (DPs) were either housed in camps or found shelter with other families, while an additional 46% of households in the three districts had been temporarily displaced but returned to their own residences.

Nearly 80% of displaced households in urban Banda Aceh and Aceh Besar had access to a protected source of drinking water (i.e., bottled, municipal tap, tanker-delivered, or deep borehole). By contrast, in Simeulue, a rural district that is poorer and more isolated, only 18% had access to a protected water source, with most families collecting water from shallow wells or surface-water sources. Access to a protected water source was significantly higher among DPs (76.7%) than among non-displaced persons (30.5%) in Aceh Besar.

Regarding the overall water situation in Aceh Province, boiling of drinking water was reported by 84% of households, regardless of the water source. However, findings included that 40% of stored drinking water samples across all three provinces tested positive for Escherichia coli, suggesting the need for improved water handling and storage practices.

Additionally, the CDC report cited routine vaccinations and provision of latrines as areas in need of improvement, yet revealed no significant difference in health indicators between DPs and non-displaced populations. As a result, recommendations for relief efforts across Aceh Province included targeting areas that serve both DPs and non-displaced persons with health and safety programs.

To view the complete CDC data, please go to:
WHO: Egypt and Niger Now Polio-Free

With the recent eradication of polio in Egypt and Niger, there are just four nations globally where the deadly disease remains endemic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The polio virus has not infected anyone in Egypt and Niger during the last 12 months. Success in the two African nations were the result of intense efforts to halt Africa’s polio epidemic by speeding up the introduction of new vaccines into affected areas. According to the U.N. health agency, only Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan remain as countries where the disease is still classified as endemic, although it is still present in eight other countries, including Yemen, Indonesia and Somalia.

In 1988 WHO launched a $4 billion anti-polio campaign when the worldwide case count was more than 350,000 annually. Last year, some 1,880 people were infected with polio around the world, 727 of them in Nigeria. Vaccination programs in Nigeria were restarted in July 2004 after local officials ended the 11-month boycott. It is estimated that the delay set WHO global eradication efforts back at least a year.

Polio is spread when people who are not vaccinated–mostly children under 5–come into contact with the feces of those with the virus, often through water. The virus attacks the central nervous system, causing paralysis, muscular atrophy and deformation and, in some instances, death.

To read more about the global fight against polio, please go to:
Safe Drinking Water For Children of the Dominican Republic

As part of the Children’s Safe Drinking Water Fund, Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Population Services International (PSI), a non-profit and non-governmental organization, have recently launched a program to provide safe drinking water to children the Dominican Republic. The program will provide PUR Purifier of Water® (PUR) sachets at a not-for-profit cost to PSI who, in turn, will provide distribution to Dominican families. Each sachet treats 10 liters of water at a cost of about 13 cents per sachet.

According to the cooperative, one out of every eight young children in the Dominican Republic suffers from diarrhea caused by contaminated water.

The PUR system is the product of a joint development project by P&G and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Using a small sachet of powdered water treatment chemicals, PUR provides precipitation, coagulation, and flocculation as well as chlorination to untreated water, reducing microbial pathogens and improving the quality of drinking water. PUR has been shown to reduce diarrheal illness by an average 50% in controlled health intervention studies.

P&G’s commercial distribution system, along with PSI’s network of community groups, will provide training on safe drinking water. The program will also offer PUR to emergency relief agencies for the victims of the frequent floods and hurricanes that hit the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean region.

For more information on the program, please go to: Children’s Safe Drinking Water Fund

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