Hurricane Irma recovery efforts should include keeping track of potential outbreaks of zoonoses; diseases or infections that are naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans.
The warning comes from Dr Makyba Charles-Ayinde, Science Policy Fellow at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
"When we have situations like flooding associated with Hurricane Irma, the water may be contaminated with higher than normal levels of bacterial pathogens, parasites, things like that. Once you have those levels of contamination, we look for it to transfer to the human and animal populations. Since we love living with our animals, we see a more fluid exchange of these diseases between both populations."
Charles-Ayinde said food-borne zoonoses; such as salmonella and E coli, are another area of concern in the recovery period as people, often unknowingly, consume contaminated food and/or water.
"Fever, vomiting and diarrhoea are the first three tell tale signs of most of those food-borne zoonoses that could result from Irma. So seek medical attention if your symptoms don't clear up within three to seven days - three days of diarrhoea is bad."
Charles-Ayinde was speaking with Newsday yesterday on the sidelines of a "The UWI Symposium on Zoonoses: Tuberculosis, Leptospirosis and Yellow Fever – a One Health Approach", hosted by the Faculty of Medical Sciences, the University of the West Indies at the UWI Teaching and Learning Complex, St Augustine.
Asked why the One Health approach is ideal in reducing the risk of zoonoses outbreaks, Charles-Ayinde said this is because One Health combines information from medical, veterinary and environmental sciences to provide a holistic look at conditions and symptoms in humans and animals alike.
"We believe that you need all three of those domains working together to address a complex problem. If you consider people in silos; you just think about the person but you don't think about the environment that they live in, you're missing important parts. That dialogue is critical."
Charles-Ayinde said conversations should be had about things such as, "Are animals presenting with issues? Are humans presenting with different issues? Are we seeing an increase in a certain concentration of a bacteria in a body of water? Is there flooding or are flood waters contaminated? Are we seeing dead animals?"
"If you don't share this sort of information, then the problem magnifies before you can come up with an appropriate solution and there could well be a break out of some disease or health crisis. So that cross talk; (which) we advocate under One Health, is extremely important if you want to have a successful approach and a successful outcome after Irma and after Jose," Charles-Ayinde told Newsday.