Environmental factors influencing the spread of communicable diseases
A number of environmental factors influence the spread of communicable diseases that are prone to cause epidemics. The most important of these are:
- water supply
- sanitation facilities
A lack of safe water, inadequate excreta disposal facilities, poor hygiene, poor living conditions and unsafe food can all cause diarrhoeal diseases. These diseases are a major cause of suffering and death in an emergency situation.
Climate can affect disease transmission in a variety of ways. The distribution and population size of disease vectors can be heavily affected by local climate. Flooding after heavy rains can result in sewage overflow and widespread water contamination. In addition, there is some evidence to suggest that pathogens can be spread from one region to another along air streams or by wind.
WHO’s response to communicable disease outbreaks is led by the Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response Department.
- Communicable disease control in emergencies. A field manual (2005)
Environmental health in emergencies and disasters: a practical guide (2002)
- Practical guidelines for infection control in health care facilities. Chapter 4. Environmental management practices (2003)
- Vector-borne disease fact sheets
- Water and sanitation related diseases fact sheets
- Assessing microbial safety of drinking water: improving approaches and methods (2003)
- Emerging issues in water and infectious diseases (2003)
- Environmental management for vector control (1998)
- Fact sheet on the management of waste during emergencies
- Four steps for the sound management of health-care waste in emergencies
- Guide to the development of on-site sanitation (1992)
- WHO technical notes on environmental sanitation in emergencies