By: Theophilus Franklyn, Environmental Health Officer
In our first article entitled ”Environmental Health and Public Events: Vincentian Perspectives”, we look broadly at all the factors that contribute to the destruction of the environment of which the public partake such as food, noise, disease, etc.
In this article, and the fact that Covid-19 is still within our realm, we would be looking at these major themes in greater detail for our articles this July, the month of carnival and other festivities.
Thus, this article will look primarily at disease transmission and prevention from a mass gathering point of view.
As stated earlier, public events are categorized in many forms, whether by the number of people to the context of the activities themselves, including weddings, parties, concerts, or even carnivals.
Diseases such as SARS, dengue fever, food poisoning, and Covid-19, all are important starting points in discussing the transmission and proliferation within the population or a crowd. These diseases are transmitted when individuals come into close contact with others or by sneezing, coughing eating uncooked foods, and other physical contact. For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in St. Vincent and the Grenadines where mass gatherings had to be limited with the resurgence of Covid-19 within communities, this, as we see, forms the basis of why diseases spread rapidly.
Another disease that commonly occurred from mass gatherings is gastrointestinal disease, since there aren’t enough sanitation and hand washing facilities at events. In some shows or activities, there are inadequate or no proper washroom and hand washing facilities that can accommodate thousands of patrons at these events. This may be the result of the timeframe by which these social activities take place in one day or night, such that patrons have to use the washroom after drinking and eating, which can cause oral-fecal infection from one person to another, or the transmission of other harmful bacteria such as Hepatitis A, E. coli, to name a few.
Additionally, salmonella is another disease that can affect individuals at events; this can be caused by eating uncooked and raw foods. At concerts and shows, foods are sold quickly and left for hours before they are sold causing food poisoning from bacteria. Foods are also left open and below the correct temperature and in the danger zones between 5°C and 60°C or 40°F and 141°F. Also, workers in food establishments dress in sleeveless or armpits and nail polish just to name a few. All these conditions assist in the transmission of food poisoning.
Mass gatherings, as mentioned before, can be a factor that causes many diseases and illnesses. Thus it’s very important to prevent them.
So, we will discuss measures that can be taken to prevent them:
- Vaccination is very important to prevent the spread of communicable diseases such as Covid-19 and measles, just to name a few. With Covid-19, there are many vaccines available for persons to take as a means of prevention.
- Social distancing is another important methodology that can be used. This requires persons to keep at least six (6) feet away from each to limit the spread of such diseases.
- Make sure that wherever you’re buying food, the area is clean, personnel are appropriately attired, and foods are stored at proper temperatures, such as salads dressing should be stored on ice and heating plate should be used to keep food hot.
- Most importantly, wash hands. Hands should be washed with clean potable water after using the bathroom, coughing, blowing your nose, or eating. This should be done with hand soap or hand washing liquid.
- The mass gathering brings about promiscuity, hence it’s important to always practice safe sex or abstain. Drinking alcohol leads to unwanted sex with others thus patrons should always used a condom if practicing sex during or after events or activities.
In conclusion, mass gatherings and public events can be a fun experience to unwind and enjoy oneself; but on the other hand, diseases can spread from one person to another if the proper measures are not exercised. Therefore, all involved must protect themselves by washing hands regularly, eating healthy, and most importantly by being vaccinated.
Always remember that your health is a shared responsibility.