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Water is one of the main routes of transmission for many micro-organisms, and thus a prevalent cause of disease, which may affect the quality of water, from both a financial perspective as well as a health quality perspective.
Grahamstown is one of many places in South Africa where the water quality is not up to the standard of what it is globally, and measures such as boiling water are recommended before drinking tap water. In order to ascertain water quality, absorption spectrum of L-ascorbic acid in different water solutions would be obtained and tested with with a spectrophotometer, and the water quality index (WQI) obtained. We would also obtain a sample survey from a group in Grahamstown, and information gathered from there.
The purpose of the research was to determine if there are contaminants present in the water in Grahamstown, and what they are, and thus to determine the overall burden of waterborne diseases.
Water contamination is both a very serious and commonly faced problem not only in Grahamstown, but across the globe. It is estimated that about 1.2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. Although the Sustainable Development Goal of decreasing this number to half has not been achieved, with ongoing efforts, it may be possible in the future. In developing countries such as South Africa, a large portion of the population does not have access to good healthcare facilities including clinics and hospitals. Without clean water and drug therapy available, a significant number of fatal waterborne-related cases are reported each year, including both adults and children. Young children are especially at risk of contracting diseases, as they are still in the process of developing an immune system.
Waterborne diseases such as cholera, malaria, dysentery, shigellosis, gastroenteritis, salmonellosis and typhoid fever are diseases which can be caused by drinking water containing viral, bacterial or parasitic organisms. These are just a few of the many waterborne endemic diseases that the South African population can be prone to developing. Grahamstown has had a cholera outbreak in the past, however with unsafe water conditions, another outbreak is likely to occur in the future. It is thus crucial to create societal awareness of waterborne diseases and prevention strategies to avoid infection. It is essential to drink and cook with clean or at least boiled water and to ensure that water is stored in clean containers.
There are various factors which may influence the quality of water such as floods, sewage disposal, faecal contamination, filtration, water piping as well as the water purification process and the added detoxification chemicals. Growing populations, urbanization and agricultural businesses also increase the demand for water. In many areas with water shortages, the reusing of water has also been shown to contribute towards waterborne diseases. Animals are also affected by contaminated water and may impact human health if infected animal meat or milk is consumed, for example, infected cattle or chicken. Owners of cattle in areas of Grahamstown should be providing safe water for animals to drink. With today’s issue of antibiotic resistance, it is becoming increasingly difficult to treat bacterial infections which are resistant. It is also thus, important to note the type of antibiotics that animals are being given.
Common symptoms of waterborne diseases include gastrointestinal disturbances such as vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps. Patients should usually remain hydrated and drink electrolyte-containing fluids which may be in the form of an oral rehydration solution. Dehydration may cause further symptoms from electrolyte disturbances. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 1.6 million deaths per year caused by diarrhoea occur in children under the age of five.
Apart from diseases, contaminated water in Grahamstown has been reported to have caused other skin-related conditions including eczema, itchy skin and irritation. It may also target immunocompromised patients who are more susceptible to developing waterborne diseases including HIV/AIDs patients and cancer patients. In patients that are already malnourished and have electrolyte disturbances, it may have severe consequences or adverse effects including seizures and heart failure. It is the responsibility of healthcare professionals to emphasize the importance of adequate hydration and electrolyte intake.
Improving access to clean drinking water to all Grahamstown residents may take many years and hence, the main emphasis should be placed on cause, prevention, treatment options according to South African guidelines, good sanitation and hygiene practices as well as community health education and awareness.
Waterborne infectious diseases are among the major causes of morbidity and mortality globally, with an estimated 2.2 million deaths per year as a result of waterborne infectious agents in drinking water. Waterborne transmission of infectious agents such as parasitic protozoan is one of the leading causes of diarrhoea with an estimated 1.7 billion cases of diarrhoea. They are usually transmitted in drinking water and cause infections: Entamoeba histolytica, Toxoplasma gondii, Balantidium coli, Cyclospora cayetanensis, Microsporidia, Isospora, Naegleria spp. Sarcocystis spp., Balantidium coli, Acanthamoeba spp. and Blastocystis hominis. It is the fecal-oral route that allows the protozoa to infect humans by means of fecal contamination in drinking water. It is therefore essential to eradicate causative agents and maintain a standard quality of drinking water provided to households in order to prevent infectious diseases.
The general operational status of the plants visited were assessed with particular emphasis on the water abstraction source, treatment processes in place, and other non-technical issues related to the plants operations such as personnel and capacity building.
Water borne diseases and therefore health outcomes are affected by the lack of access to clean water which seems to be prevalent more in developing countries such as South Africa. The lack of access to clean and safe water poses a great threat to health as clean water is key to sustaining life and health and is one of the primary sources of transmission of microorganisms and disease.
It is imperative to create social awareness about the impact of using contaminated/unsafe water not only in an attempt to prevent infection but to also reduce the burden created by water-borne diseases. We are currently facing a huge challenge in Antimicrobial Stewardship and that is of Antimicrobial Resistance, therefore developing prevention strategies instead of continuously using antimicrobials will play a role in combating overuse of antimicrobials therefore reducing resistance. This research proposal aims at conducting research with the aim of deducing the type of water contaminants currently present in our geographic area and how these contaminants affect the health of the population.
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