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Acute diarrhoeal disease
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Acute diarrhoeal disease

Last update: 2022-05-06

Key facts

Transmission

  • Contaminated food
  • Unwashed hands
  • Water contaminated with human waste (stools)

Symptoms

  • Three or more loose or liquid stools over a period of 24 hours.
  • Possible stomach pains, fever, nausea and vomiting.
  • Can cause dehydration, sepsis and death.

Prevention

  • Safe, clean water (including a clean, covered water container in the household)
  • Use appropriate sanitation facilities (sound, clean latrines)
  • Wash hands with soap (especially after using the toilet or cleaning a baby)
  • Good food hygiene (thoroughly cooked food, covered food, clean utensils, etc.)
  • Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life
  • Social mobilization and behaviour change communication
  • Routine vaccination for rotavirus

Vulnerable people

  • Children under five, malnourished children
  • People living with HIV
  • Pregnant women
  • People living in areas that have poor water, sanitation and hygiene facilities and services

If an epidemic occurs

  • Initiate community-based surveillance
  • Treat mild cases in the community by providing oral rehydration solution and zinc supplementation
  • Detect and refer serious cases to health facilities
  • Promote good food hygiene (well-cooked food, covered food, clean utensils etc.)
  • Encourage breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding when the baby or child is sick
  • Promote safe, clean water (including a clean, covered water container in the household)
  • Promote use of appropriate sanitation facilities (sound, clean latrines)
  • Promote handwashing with soap (especially after using the toilet or cleaning a baby)
  • Increase social mobilization and behaviour change communication
  • Promote recommended health practices
  • Identify the possible source

Community-based assessment - questions

Make a map of the community and mark the information you gather on the map. Record other details.

  • When did people start to fall sick with diarrhoea?
  • How many people have fallen sick with diarrhoea? Where?
  • How many people have died from diarrhoea? Where?
  • How many people live in the affected community or area?
  • How many children under five years of age live in the area?
  • Who and where are the vulnerable people?
  • Are children in the affected community generally well nourished?
  • Do people always have enough food?
  • How common is breastfeeding?
  • Where do people obtain their drinking water? Is the source safe? Do people treat their water?
  • What sanitation facilities (including communal latrines) are available? Do people use them?
  • What hand-washing facilities are available? Do they have soap?
  • Where are the local health facilities and services? (Include traditional and community carers.)
  • What are the community’s habits, practices and beliefs about caring for and feeding sick people? When babies and infants are sick, do women continue to breastfeed them?
  • Is a social mobilization or health promotion programme in place?
  • What are the community’s habits, practices and beliefs about hygiene, sanitation and water?
  • Which sources or channels of information do people use most? • Are rumours or is misinformation about diarrhoea spreading in the community?
  • Can people identify the signs and symptoms of dehydration?
  • Do people know how to make oral rehydration solution (ORS)? Do they have resources at hand to make it?
  • Do people know how to treat water?

Dehydrated child

  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Lethargic/weak
  • Skin pinch returns slowly
  • Little or no urine

Encourage exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life – including when a child is sick.

acute diarrheal diseases