Other ways to reduce the risks of faeco-oral diseases
In addition to interrupting the direct and indirect transmission of infectious agents, the risk of faeco-oral diseases can be reduced by other ways of protecting and promoting general health, particularly of children. Malnutrition increases the susceptibility of children to develop severe symptoms if they are exposed to infection. Therefore, exclusive breastfeeding until the age of six months and good nutrition after weaning can help to protect children from infection and increase their resistance to the most severe symptoms if they become ill. Eating additional nourishing meals also aids recovery after illness.
Immunization against all the vaccine-preventable diseases also promotes the general health of children and helps to protect them from faeco-oral diseases (figure below). A child who is suffering from a condition such as measles or pneumonia is also more vulnerable to develop a faeco-oral disease, because their immune system is overloaded by infection. Giving vitamin A supplements with the measles vaccine at the age of nine months, and every six months thereafter until the age of five years, also helps to promote health and increase resistance to infection. So, ensuring that parents and other caregivers know about and follow all these good practices can help to reduce the risks to children from faeco-oral diseases. A vaccine to protect children against rotavirus infection – the main cause of viral diarrhoeal disease – is expected to be added to the routine Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in the near future.
In the next two study sessions, we will discuss specific types of faeco-oral diseases caused by bacteria and viruses and protozoa; helminths that cause faeco-oral diseases are als0 described.