Health officials today cautioned residents in the St. Thomas District without reliable running water to guard against the risk of infectious diseases that could result in a public health concern. The alert was necessary after the Health Department was informed by the Water and Power Authority (WAPA) that there would be no potable water service on Tuesday for customers living on the island of St. Thomas, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the DOH.
Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mercedes K.C. Dullum said that the department is in close contact with WAPA officials and that the daylong service interruption would allow the company to build up water reserves and pressure in order to pump water to hilly areas such as the island’s east end.
“While we understand the reason behind the water service interruption by the public utility company, health problems from water scarcity is a public health concern,” said the acting commissioner. “Practicing personal hygiene etiquette is difficult due to lack of clean water and soap; therefore, we urge residents with cistern water to help their neighbors and for all residents to wash hands often or use hand sanitizers.”
Contaminated hands could also lead to food borne disease outbreaks.
“Hand hygiene is critical to interrupt the spread of infectious diseases such as the common cold, influenza and gastrointestinal illnesses,” Dr. Dullum said. When there is no reliable running water, residents should wash hands:
· Before and after preparing food
· Before and after eating food
· Before tending to someone who is sick
· Before and after treating a cut or wound
· After using the toilet
· After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
· After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
· After handling an animal or animal waste
· After handling garbage
Residents are also urged to stock up on bottled water and to take the extra precaution of boiling non-bottled water before drinking.