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Disease prevention and sanitation

Disease Prevention and Sanitation

The fact is that humans are guilty of spreading many pathogenic organisms into drinking water sources through poor sanitation practices. While we cannot stop animals from spreading pathogens like Giardia, we can stop ourselves by following these guidelines:

  • When hiking always dispose of your faeces at least 50 metres from any water source. If there is a drop toilet then use it. If not, bury your faeces in a hole 15 centimetres deep in biologically active soil where it will be broken down. Pack out your toilet paper in a sealed container. Other alternatives include smearing your faeces in a thin layer on a sun-exposed rock—well away from the path of other people—so that UV radiation and drying will quickly deactivate potential pathogens. In many crowded recreation areas in the US, people are now required to pack their faeces out in sealed containers for disposal in municipal toilets. This trend will likely increase as more people take to the backcountry and levels of contamination escalate.
  • Urinate at least 50 metres from water sources and on sun-exposed rocks or sand for rapid evaporation. Try to avoid urinating on plants.
  • Wash dishes with biodegradable soap or preferably without soap (try using sand or snow) well away from water sources and then fling gray water from dishes or body washing over a wide area of vegetation at least 50 metres from water sources. This will prevent soap contamination of water sources and keep food particles from becoming nutirents for waterborne bacteria.
  • Practice good hygiene by washing and/or sanitizing your hands away from water sources after urinating or defecating and before cooking or eating. When travelling do the same anytime after riding public transport or touching door handles to prevent the faecal–oral transmission of pathogens.

People with diarrhea or other illnesses should not prepare meals. If someone in your party is sick, wash dishes and utensils with water containing a halogen or boil them to prevent the spread of illness.