Illness, with particular focus on schistosomiasis, associated with recreational use of water by canoeists in the Msunduzi, Mngeni rivers in KwaZulu-Natal : issues and associated implications for other water users.
Water-related disease is a problem faced by many communities in the Mngeru and Msunduzi River valleys, both those living in a rural setting, and those within thedty bounds. Treatment and management of water-related diseases such as SchistosorrUasis and Hepatitis are, however, overshadowed by the priority management of more serious illnesses such as HIV/ AIDS, and are therefore at risk of spreading unchecked. These diseases, while not often fatal, have a high morbidity and place unnecessary burden on communities and individuals that could otherwise make a positive contribution to the social and economic structure of the country. The impacts of water-related disease are felt by all water-users, including those recreational users such as fishermen, swimmers and canoeists. Following a discussion of the issues and impacts of water-related disease at both a global and local scale, the research formulated a survey of the impact of water-related disease on canoeists training and racing on the Mngeni and Msunduzi Rivers as a starting point in determining the impacts on all communities using the resource. The methods employed were twofold, a Schistosoma haematobium infection- survey was conducted using urine samples; and a questionnaire-type survey of participants in the 2006 Dusi Canoe Marathon was conducted. The results of the Schistosomiasis survey revealed that 4.07% (20/491) of the respondents were positive in this survey. Analysis of the questionnaire filled in by all participants further revealed that 73% of respondents tested positive for Schistosomiasis infection at some point in their canoeing career. The post Dusi Marathon questionnaire survey was answered by 941 (54 %) participants. A total of 588 (63 %) reported experiencing illness as a result of taking part in the 2006 event. A further 362 individuals reported having experienced water-related illness on previous Dusi Marathons, indicating that 77% of the respondents have been ill on the Dusi in this and previous years' events. In addition, water quality samples were taken during the race and were shown to be significantly higher than the guidelines for safe recreational use of water resources. The results also showed a radical overnight change in the E.coli levels following a heavy rain event on the evening before the start of the race. The research revealed that there is a serious problem of water contamination and resultant spread of disease among canoeists using the rivers for recreational and professional sport. Contamination resulting from failure of sewage processing facilities during high rainfall events and industrial discharge into the river system results in excessive and unacceptable levels of E.coli and other water-related pathogens that are a severe health risk not only to canoeists but to all communities utilising this water resource.
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