The Health September 2022 | Page 20

Unseen dangers lurking in our soil Work on your soil safely without getting infected by harmful organisms



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Best to wear gloves when working on the soil .

MALAYSIA is blessed with a warm tropical climate . Lush greenery litters our country and those involved in farming activities or gardening as a hobby get to tend to their plants all year round .

A good soil is still the quintessential requisite to growing most plants . The soil provides plants with essential nutrients and structural support . But do you know we can get infected by harmful organisms if we do not handle the dirt and soil properly ? Let me share with you some of the unseen dangers in our soil .
Commonly soil-transmitted parasites are Ascaris , hookworm and whipworm . People are infected with Ascaris and whipworm when eggs are ingested . This can happen when hands or fingers that have contaminated dirt are put in the mouth or by consuming vegetables and fruits that have not been carefully prepared .
Hookworm hatch in soil , releasing larvae that can penetrate the skin , especially when walking barefoot . These parasites multiply in our bodies and can cause malnutrition , diarrhoea , chronic illnesses like anaemia , and protein deficiency .
Tetanus , caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani , is found globally . An exposed open wound allows tetanus spores in the soil to enter our body . We receive immunity against tetanus by vaccination .
However , individuals may be at risk of tetanus infection when their immunity against the bacteria has reduced . Tetanus causes persistent muscle spasms resulting in lockjaw , inability to swallow and unstable blood pressure . Death occurs in up to 30 per cent of those infected .
Melioidosis Melioidosis is a bacterial infection

Unseen dangers lurking in our soil Work on your soil safely without getting infected by harmful organisms

Parasitic worms in human intestine .
commonly found in communities involved in soil activities in Sabah , Sarawak , Kedah , Johor and Pahang . Those with poorer nutrition , hygiene and immunity are at risk .
Village children who habitually play with the soil may develop pus-forming cavities , also known as abscesses , that
Assoc Prof Dr Tan Toh Leong is Senior Lecturer and Emergency Medical Consultant , UKM Medical Center , Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and President and Founder of Malaysian Sepsis Alliance ( MSA ) while Dr Liew Yew Kong is Emergency Physician , Hospital Bintulu , Sarawak and committee member of MSA . form in the skin or lymph glands . It can also attack the lungs , spleen and liver .
Those infected with melioidosis must receive antibiotics for at least three months . The infection can lead to severe sepsis and even death if left untreated or the patient gets treatment late .
With these potentially deadly infections , should we avoid soil work ? Definitely not ! Here are some good habits that can minimise our risk of infection :
Good hand hygiene
Do you know which is the dirtiest and most missed area of our hands after handwashing ? The fingernails ! If not cleaned properly , the black gunk embedded beneath our nails carries a rich source of harmful organisms that transmit to different parts of our body and even to our food .
Good personal protection
The habit of wearing gloves and boots while doing field work is frequently overlooked . Not only do the items provide a physical barrier to prevent injury or wounds , but they also help reduce our contact with harmful organisms in the soil .
Clean wounds
I am sure most readers have fond memory of our mothers fussing to quickly wash our wounds whenever we scrapped our knees or elbows . It turns out there is wisdom in such a practice . Clean water helps wash away the dirt and organism lodged in our wounds , thereby reducing the risk of infection .
Get boosted
Tetanus immunisation has drastically reduced the incidence of tetanus infection . However , the protection wanes over time . It is recommended that one gets a booster jab in a 10-yearly interval .
By practicing the above precautions , I hope everyone will be able to work on their soil safely and enjoy the fruits of their labour ! – The Health