Tony Vieira's Comments
22 October 2017


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Flood secondary consequences
(Aired 9 January 2006)

    I am doing this commentary since there is an area I covered in my previous commentary Climate Change that has caused some turbulence, even among the engineering community, we Guyanese live on a coastal plain which is below sea level, we all know that if we dig a hole anywhere in on the coast in the front lands at around 2 feet we will find water i.e. if we dug a hole two feet deep almost anywhere on the frontlands of the coast and left it for 24 hours there would be water in it next day.

   This is because the water table is around 2 ft from the surface almost everywhere on the coast when conditions are normal, during extreme droughts the water table can recede as far as 4 ft down, but even that it is very close to the surface, in New York for example I saw then digging a hole 8 ft deep for a pool and no water was coming into the hole. But I have known that this high water table in Guyana exists 2 ft below the surface of the coastal plain was a phenomenon peculiar to our coastal plain and so we have a rooting zone i.e. that zone where the roots of our plants grow which is around 1.5-2 ft deep depending on where you are on the coast.

   Now let us assume that the sea level is rising and has actually risen over the past 10 years by as little as 6 inches, then the root zone for our plants now becomes 1- 1.5 feet since the water table is rising because the low tide is now 6 inches higher than it used to be, and it is impossible to drain lower than what the low tide level the Ocean allows, as a result foundations of the higher buildings along the coast will begin to crumble since they were built on solid land up to two feet deep but which is now only 1 ½ feet deep, the consequences can be disastrous. I believe that this is why the engineers called me to ask me to explain this theory [actually they give out masters degrees and doctorates for this kind of work, so perhaps some enterprising young agronomist would like to quantify it for us the concept is free, a gift from me] and it is more than a theory, it is becoming a reality, water is running over koker doors which 20 years ago would not have happehed, so the sea levels are indeed rising. But we need a more definitive study to tell us by how much. But believe this, the consequences of the low tide being higher will become a  bigger problem for the costal plain of Guyana long before the rising sea level topping over of the river and ocean defences becomes a thereat.

   In the second part of this commentary tonight I want to deal with leptospirosis, I intervene here since the Ministry of Health apparently do not have a clue as to what they are doing.

    Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. In humans it causes a wide range of symptoms, and some infected persons may have no symptoms at all. Symptoms of leptospirosis include high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, and vomiting, and may include jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), abdominal pain, diarrhoea, or a rash. If the disease is not treated, the patient could develop kidney damage, meningitis which is inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord, liver failure, and respiratory distress. In rare cases death occurs.
  Many of these symptoms can be mistaken for other diseases. Leptospirosis is confirmed by laboratory testing of a blood or urine sample.

     Outbreaks of leptospirosis are usually caused by exposure to water/food contaminated with the urine of infected animals. Leptospira organisms have been found in cattle, pigs, horses, dogs, rodents [especially rats] and wild animals. Humans become infected through contact with contaminated water, food, or soil containing urine from these infected animals. This may happen by swallowing contaminated food or water or through skin contact, especially with mucosal surfaces, such as the eyes or nose, or with broken skin. The disease is not known to be spread from person to person.

    The time between a person's exposure to a contaminated source and becoming sick is 2 days to 4 weeks. Illness usually begins abruptly with fever and other symptoms. Leptospirosis may occur in two phases; after the first phase, with fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, or diarrhea, the hall mark of the Diarrhea from Lepto is that it looks like rice water i.e. it has a whitish color look for that, the patient may recover for a time but become ill again. If a second phase occurs, it is more severe; the person may have kidney or liver failure or meningitis. This phase is also called Weil's disease.
  The illness lasts from a few days to 3 weeks or longer. Without treatment, recovery may take several months.

    On your behalf I have consulted experts abroad and on the internet concerning our specific situation here with this dreaded disease and this is what I found out.

   The likelihood of getting Leptospirosis from the flood water surrounding you is not very high, it can happen, but it is not probable since in that huge amount of flood water the dilution would probably be too great to have enough concentration to infect you, and our flood water is moving it is going out to the sea every day, it is just not going out fast enough, so it is essentially not stagnant water. the second thing that you should have been told were the symptoms as I have outlined for you here, the third thing was what exactly you have to do to minimize infection.

    When the books say that infection comes from water containing infected animal urine it does not necessarily mean the billions of gallons of water surrounding your house moving to the ocean, it means your drinking water inside the house, even if it is water that comes from a bottle can still become infected. I'll tell you how in a minute.

   Here is what a specialist in these matters outside of Guyana told me, you have to look at the big picture you have 50-100 square miles with some houses on it, not all of the rats in the environment live in people's houses, the majority live in the land around the housing areas, they feed in dirty drains which contain discarded food etc. so along comes the flood and the rats migrate to higher ground, in this case your house, so now the large amount of rats that was populating hundreds of square miles around you are now in your house, they will invade areas where you keep your food and where you keep your water, they will inevitably urinate on the food and the water they are eating and that is how we have infections of lepto from rats to the human population during these floods.

   Here are a few hints, boil all water thoroughly before you drink it, even if it is bottled water and cook all food thoroughly, get some Marvex bleach and add a teaspoon of it to a gallon of the water you are washing your food utensils with, especially dishes, eating utelsils and drinking glasses, since plates, cutlery etc may have had food left on them overnight from the last meal and rats may have been eating it in your kitchen or your sink, do not add this Marvex to the water you will drink, its not safe for an untrained person to do that, you may put too much and hurt your self, boil all water you will actually drink and any fresh fruits mangoes etc wash it with the Marvex water before you eat it, remember that those affected do not have electricity and therefore they may not be seeing this commentary, so I am depending on you to pass the word around, be aware of all of the animals carrying the dreaded Leptospira bacteria rats are the most important group, so double up on rat poison put it everywhere especially on the ground where your food supply is in the kitchen, please be careful not the contaminate your food supply with rat poison and please, please, do not put this poison where your children can get to it, so be cautious.

   This Government who are professing that they care so much about your plight should be giving you the rat poison and the Marvex you need to protect yourself.

   Remember at all times that the potential for infection, is more real inside your house than in the actual flood water outside so follow the simple guidelines I am giving you here.