WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 62-68

Prevalence of household drinking-water contamination and of acute diarrhoeal illness in a periurban community in Myanmar

Department of Medical Research, Yangon, Myanmar

Correspondence Address:
Su Latt Tun Myint
Department of Medical Research, No. 5 Ziwaka Road, Dagon Township, Yangon 11191
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DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.206623

PMID: 28607276

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Background: A major health consequence of rapid population growth in urban areas is the increased pressure on existing overstretched water and sanitation services. This study of an expanding periurban neighbourhood of Yangon Region, Myanmar, aimed to ascertain the prevalence of acute diarrhoea in children under 5 years; to identify household sources of drinking-water; to describe purification and storage practices; and to assess drinking-water contamination at point-of-use. Methods: A survey of the prevalence of acute diarrhoea in children under 5 years was done in 211 households in February 2013; demographic data were also collected, along with data and details of sources of drinking water, water purification, storage practices and waste disposal. During March–August, a subset of 112 households was revisited to collect drinking water samples. The samples were analysed by the multiple tube fermentation method to count thermotolerant (faecal) coliforms and there was a qualitative determination of the presence of Escherichia coli. Results: Acute diarrhoea in children under 5 years was reported in 4.74% (10/211, 95% CI: 3.0-9.0) of households within the past two weeks. More than half of the households used insanitary pit latrines and 36% disposed of their waste into nearby streams and ponds. Improved sources of drinking water were used, mainly the unchlorinated ward reservoir, a chlorinated tube well or purified bottled water. Nearly a quarter of households never used any method for drinking-water purification. Ninety-four per cent (105/112) of water samples were contaminated with thermotolerant (faecal) coliforms, ranging from 2.2 colony-forming units (CFU)/100 mL (21.4%) to more than 1000 CFU/100 mL (60.7%). Of faecal (thermotolerant)-coliform-positive water samples, 70% (47/68) grew E. coli. Conclusion: The prevalence of acute diarrhoea reported for children under 5 years was high and a high level of drinking-water contamination was detected, though it was unclear whether this was due to contamination at source or at point-of-use. Maintenance of drinking-water quality in study households is complex. Further research is crucial to prove the cost effectiveness in quality improvement of drinking water at point-of-use in resource-limited settings. In addition, empowerment of householders to use measures of treating water by boiling, filtration or chlorination, and safe storage with proper handling is essential.

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