GUWAHATI, June 11 � Outbreak of cholera can be prevented forever if the care is taken to ensure supply of cent per cent safe drinking water to the people taking availability of drinking water as a fundamental right of the people, observed renowned public health engineer A B Paul. Paul, a former chief engineer of the Assam Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), was the man behind the detection of widespread fluoride and arsenic contamination of groundwater in the State.
Reacting to reports of cholera outbreak in some of the upper Assam tea estates (TEs), Paul said, this again reveals contamination of the drinking water sources in these TEs. There may be no disinfection campaign too.
Cholera is caused by drinking water contaminated with fecal substances purged by infected humans. One is to swallow at least 1 gram of Vibrio- cholerae bacteria-infected stool containing 107 -109 Vibro cholerae per mililitre of water, to have this disease. To prevent contamination of the water sources from cholera bacteria, sanitation barrier is also a must.
Often, the doctors do not have labs, nor do they have training and time, to deal with the situation. Even after the outbreak of the disease, they hesitate to confirm perhaps fearing the implications like exploding the myths of supplying safe drinking water, providing proper sanitation coverage to all sections of the people, compliance of the 1951 Tea Plantation Act, etc.
The quantity, quality and availability of safe drinking water in time are very important factors in preventing cholera. Prevention of cholera has now become very easy. Cholera is in fact an engineering problem � Public Heath Engineering, to be precise.
However, TE authorities concerned should be cautioned about the possibility of spread of such diseases to the neighbourhood of their gardens. Or else, the danger of slipping to the 1994 situation looms large. Workers of around 20 tea estates in Jorhat district were affected that year, over 700 people were killed by the disease and a population at least 10 times higher than that was affected by it.
Disinfection must be continuous and long-lasting one. Chlorine is best suited for this. Cholera vibrios are killed by heating water up to 56�C, or within a few seconds by boiling. Bleaching powder at dose of 6 mg per litre kills the bacteria instantly.
Simple H2S strip test developed by Jodhpur Defence Laboratory can serve as field level bacteriological check for measuring the effectiveness in disinfection or safety of the drinking water. Detailed laboratory test must follow whenever the e-coli bacteria presence is doubted through the above test.
Septic tank is costly. However, sanitation is no longer a costly proposition. Two pit low-cost sanitation system is as good as the high-cost septic tank system, he said.