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In normal circumstances, food waste is put in the garbage disposal or bagged and taken by the city. Human waste is eliminated by just one flush. In times of or following a disaster, those options often don’t exist. In fact, problems with sanitation are often a major cause of illness and death. The close conditions in a home and accumulation of waste can spread disease throughout the household, unless precautions are taken.

Poor hygiene and lack of sanitation can increase pest problems. Rodents, particularly rodents with fleas can spread serious diseases such as Bubonic Plague. When garbage lines the house, expect to get these local visitors, which is one reason to have a method of garbage disposal. It can involve burying it or composting it away from the house. Make sure you don’t add meat to the composting material. It slows the composting process, attracts not only pests, maggots and flies, but hungry dogs and smells rank. A bokashi bin or bucket is an option for both vegetable and animal garbage.

Poor hygiene also leads to problems with infection, both upper respiratory and illness types of infection, as well as infected wounds. Keeping not only the environment in the home clean, but also the individuals, can help prevent a problem. If a member of the family becomes ill, isolating them in a separate room can help prevent the spread of the airborne illness. Good ventilation is also important.

Disposing of human waste is a huge problem, particularly if the sewage system no longer works or gray water—water used for washing—has run out and flushing becomes a waste of the precious commodity. Planning can help prevent this problem, with an alternative, such as an outhouse, makeshift toilet with kitty litter and a bucket you can empty and bury or a camping toilet or other alternative.

When burying human waste outside, make the hole deep and away from water sources. It can contaminate the water source. Lack of adequate hygiene and sanitation practices are responsible for the spread diseases such as typhoid, hepatitis, cholera, polio, cryptosporidiosis and other serious conditions, particularly if the individual or group is malnourished or weak in the first place.

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Unrecognized threats from Poor Hygiene and Sanitation