Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – Octover 14th, 2005

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

October 14, 2005

Heavy Rains Spark Surge in West African Cholera Cases

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that cases of the waterborne disease cholera have shot up by nearly 40 percent across West Africa in the past month. The dramatic rise in infection levels was triggered by a particularly heavy rainy season and compounded by increased population movements, according to WHO. At least 800 people have died since mid-year in a cholera epidemic that has struck nearly 50,000 in West Africa. In all, eight countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal), have reported some 46,569 cases with 804 deaths, according to a media tally of WHO figures issued in Geneva.

Senegal, where the situation has been made worse by recent flooding in the capital Dakar, is hardest hit with 1,212 new cases reported in one week at the end of September. Overall, Senegal has reported 320 deaths among 24,111 cases in 2005. WHO expressed additional concern for the spread of the infection due to the population movements during Ramadan.

Cholera, an acute intestinal infection spread by contaminated water or food, causes vomiting and acute diarrhea that can lead to dehydration and death within 24 hours. It can be treated by using a simple mixture of water and rehydration salts. However, severe cases require intravenous fluids. Preventive measures, including teaching good personal hygiene, are key to heading off outbreaks in vulnerable poor communities that often lack latrines or clean drinking water.

Ninety-four percent of the world’s 101,383 reported cholera cases last year occurred in Africa, according to the WHO.

To read more about WHO efforts, please go to:

EPA Wastewater Pretreatment Streamlining Rule Completed

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized the Pretreatment Streamlining Rule, revising how industrial and commercial facilities manage their wastewater discharges before sending it on to publicly-owned treatment works (POTW) for final treatment. The new pretreatment streamlining rule updates the National Pretreatment Program that has been in place for more than 30 years.

The pretreatment program requires manufacturing dischargers to use treatment techniques and management practices to reduce or eliminate the discharge of harmful pollutants that could compromise municipal treatment plant processes or contaminate waterways. The new rule maintains that protection, but removes process requirements for industrial operations including the sampling of their discharges for pollutants that are not present at their facilities.

This change proposed in the new Pretreatment Streamlining Rule will reportedly reduce the costs to facilities substantially, while still holding those facilities to the same federal discharge limits currently in place under Clean Water Act regulations. The EPA estimates the rule will save 240,000 employee hours or $10.1 million annually that is currently expended on pretreatment requirements.

To read more about EPA’s pretreatment streamlining rule, please go to:

Conference Proposes African Food Safety Plan

Representatives from 49 countries have agreed on a five-year action plan for the first Pan-Africa food safety plan following a four-day conference organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Deaths resulting from food-borne illnesses in Africa are close to rivaling those from malaria, which accounts for more than one million deaths worldwide, mostly in Africa, according to the two agencies.

According to the FAO’s Chief of Food Quality and Standards Service, the nine-point plan developed at the Regional Food Safety Conference for Africa provides for the drafting of national food safety plans and research, the approval of new laws to protect consumers and the creation of a Pan-African coordinating body that will meet regularly to find ways of improving food quality. In addition, the plan paves the way for the creation of a pan-African assembly that will meet regularly to find ways of improving food quality. The plan also urges countries to join in Codex, a commission set up by the WHO and FAO which sets out guidelines for food safety and quality.

Food-borne and waterborne diseases are estimated to cause some 700,000 deaths in Africa every year – one third of global deaths from food illnesses, according to the FAO and the WHO. Poor food safety controls also cause huge economic losses for the continent. The failure to meet new food standards issued by the European Union in 2001 resulted in a 64 percent drop in exports from Africa of cereals, dried fruits and nuts, representing a loss of $670 million.

To read the complete FAO/WHO plan, please go to:

October 18th is World Water Monitoring Day

World Water Monitoring Day (WWMD), an annual event to commemorating the anniversary of the Clean Water Act, provides individuals and families the opportunity to get involved in local watershed activities and learn about water quality issues and water monitoring. America’s Clean Water Foundation (ACWF) created WWMD and coordinates the event each year with its primary global partner, the International Water Association (IWA). The event is in its third year.

Between Sept. 18 and Oct. 18, tests for dissolved oxygen, pH levels (acidity/alkalinity), temperature and turbidity (clarity), are conducted in communities around the world as part of this annual educational outreach designed to increase awareness of the important role that water quality testing plays in protecting the world’s watersheds. These tests can yield basic clues about water quality, yet are simple enough for volunteers of all experience levels to conduct.

Last year, 6,527 sites were registered throughout 50 nations, doubling the number of countries participating in 2003. WWMD also serves as a yearly platform for watershed leaders, educators and trained volunteers to help others better understand how the actions of individuals impact everyone. The aim of the event is to encourage the global community to experience water monitoring first-hand and evaluate water quality conditions within their local watersheds.

For more information on World Water Monitoring Day, please go to:

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