Bacteriological analysis of water samples from Tsunami hit coastal areas of Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu
Rajendran P1, Murugan S2, Raju S2, Sundararaj T1, Kanthesh BM1, Reddy EV1
1 Department of Microbiology, Dr. ALM PGIBMS, University of Madras, Taramani, Chennai - 600 013, India
2 Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Anna Salai, Chennai - 600 006, Tamil Nadu, India
Department of Microbiology, Dr. ALM PGIBMS, University of Madras, Taramani, Chennai - 600 013
Water borne diseases such as cholera, enteric fever and dysentery were expected after the tsunami, which hit the coastal areas of Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu. In the present study 151 drinking water sources were collected from the tsunami affected villages and relief shelters and tested for coliforms and pathogens. Nine well water samples were also collected for specific bacteriological analysis. Presence of coliforms was detected in 56 (37%) water samples. One isolate each of Salmonella Paratyphi B and NAG Vibrio were isolated from two well water samples. There was no report of acute diarroeal diseases or typhoid illness during the post tsunami period monitored by a field microbiology laboratory for a month.
Keywords: Tsunami, drinking water contamination, MPN, bacteriological analysis
Indian J Med Microbiol 2006;24:114-116. Open Access Article.
The tsunami that devastated Indian Ocean region on December 26, 2004, represents the greatest natural disaster of our times which killed more than 250 000 people in 13 countries and over five million have been left homeless in South Asia including India.
The biggest challenge of India's health establishment after the tsunami was directed towards sustaining disease surveillance to prevent epidemics in the affected areas. Tamilnadu was one of the worst affected states in India, which reported the highest number of deaths and displaced people. Basic services such as clean water and sanitation were severely affected in the coastal areas by tsunami. Survivors were under serious threat of disease outbreaks as a result of damaged water and sanitation systems, seawater contamination and the congested and crowded conditions of the displaced. There was an immediate increased risk of waterborne diseases like cholera, typhoid fever, shigellosis and hepatitis A and E, which are related to unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation.
A tsunami creates a surge of ocean water that can sometimes engulf large geographic areas. As the ocean water comes ashore, drinking water sources can become submerged and potentially contaminated with microorganisms. If water containing disease-causing microorganisms is ingested, it may cause immediate, life threatening health problems such as acute diarroeal diseases, cholera and other serious infections.
In Tamilnadu, immediately after the disaster, the department of public health and preventive medicine mobilized epidemiologists, medical officers, paramedical staff and health workers from various parts of the state to the affected coastal districts to take care of health related issues of the coastal area population afflicted by the tsunami.
As an integral part of epidemic preparedness, the microbiologists deputed from the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Chennai, established a field microbiology laboratory at Kanyakumari district, Tamilnadu. In this report, various drinking water sources were analysed for bacteriological contamination due to tsunami along the coastal areas and provision of safe drinking water to large displacement centers (relief shelters) to prevent waterborne diseases.