How To Handle The Disgusting Smell and Mosquitoes Overtaking Beirut

Pic via Mawtoura.

Pic via Mawtoura.

Here it unfolds, the worst chapter in the non-ending story of the Lebanese garbage crisis. Don’t be fooled, the crisis is far from over. The governmental “solution” is so short-sighted and non-sensical that the crisis is bound to be repeated if not in 60 days, then in a few months or years. This is how we do things in this country: we put band-aids on gaping wounds, without making sure that the wound itself has actually been stabilized enough to be managed with band-aids; we do makeup coverups for problems that need hardcore fixes.

Perhaps nothing exemplifies how short-sighted and lala-landish our government is than the Minister of Environment tweeting (then deleting) a few days ago that the wave of mosquitoes and flies the likes of which this country has not seen in recent memory is due to nothing other than the heat. He then subsequently blocked everyone who told him off or otherwise.

Mohammad Machnouk tweet

Ignore the fact that our Minister of Environment’s credentials don’t come anywhere near the science of the environment, and ignore the fact that we’re not actually experiencing waves of heat that could bring this much mosquitoes to our cities, what remains is a minister in a government that is trying to repeatedly fool you: the mosquitoes are due to the garbage, not just the weather.

As they stacked up the garbage in various locations around Beirut over the past several months, from Karantina to the Beirut River, the organic matter in that garbage underwent fermentation and decomposition leading to a wide array of toxins and bacteria. For months, those toxic materials were just lying there, unperturbed. However, the moment those poor garbage handlers started removing it, the chemicals were “freed” allowing them to move up to the Beiruti atmosphere and give you the absolutely horrible smell that feels inescapable.

The smell will remain there as long as they’re removing the garbage. The more time they take, the more we’ll have to endure, so let’s hope the poor fellows handling it physically can sustain the effort it takes before temperatures become higher and work conditions become too horrifying for the to manage.

Many people have reported unable to prevent vomiting many times a day because of the stench. Some have reported feeling ashamed of not being unable to vomit in public. I tell those people, your vomit is more honorable than the faces of those in governance who have inflicted this upon us. Wear it – not literally – like a badge of honor. If you’re having multiple episodes of vomiting, however, make sure to stay hydrated. Use anti-emetics, like primperan or motilium, to try and prevent such episodes as much as you can.

The disgusting smell has the worst ramifications on those with already present pulmonary disease. If you’re asthmatic or have an underlying lung illness and are feeling more out of breath than usual, consult your pulmonologist on adjusting your inhaler dose.

But what can be done about the smell and the mosquitoes and flies other than essentially sucking it up? We have to make sure our homes are safe for us and our children.

The mosquitoes and flies are a huge problem because 1) they exist in huge amounts, 2) they are caused by the garbage crisis, 3) they carry toxins with them as they travel, 4) they might carry infectious vectors from one person to the next and 5) they will bite.

So here’s a step by step process over how to handle things to the best of your capacity.

  1. Use face masks while going out if the smell is too much for you to handle. They’re present at most pharmacies and will help to a certain point.
  2. Before leaving your house, close the windows and doors to make sure mosquitoes and flies don’t welcome you back home. You can also use low dose insecticide, which will dissipate over the day, to keep the house free of the pests.
  3. Make sure to have cleansing hand gel with you at all times. Use it abundantly.
  4. If you or your children are bitten by a mosquito or flies, many of which are specific to this kind of fermentation process, clean the bite with a little bit of antiseptic, which will help in relief and cleaning.
  5. You can also use antiseptic sprays around the house. Those are a bit expensive, but there’s a cheaper DIY method that Ziad Abi Chaker shared on Facebook yesterday, consisting of mixing mouthwash with equal parts of water (1 cup mouthwash to 1 cup of water), putting the combo in a spray bottle and spraying the house.
  6. Maintain proper hygiene, not only of yourself but also of your house. The cleaner it is, the safer it is for yourself and your family.
  7. Every time a wave of nausea hits you or a mosquito/fly bites you, curse the hell out of this country and its government for making you go through this.

While our politicians live in lala-land and pretend that the only thing happening in Beirut is basically #Live and #Love, we are dealing with things that no civilized country has to ever deal with. Except the only notion of civility we have is what we propagate to those poor tourists to whom we now have to find an explanation as to why it just smells so bad in the city they’ve been duped to visit. If only odors can be carried over to Instagram posts.

I can’t believe it’s the year 2016 and we are discussing the ways to handle a putrid smell taking over our capital. What will be equally horrifying is the fact that the people in Nehme and other areas in the country where landfills reined supreme had to deal with such things for an extended period of time while no one cared. There’s a reason those people protested the landfill in their area, closed roads leading to it and refused to receive garbage in it again, only to be faced with army men and tanks forcing them to open it up.

In a short period, when the Burj Hammoud landfill opens up, this smell and everything that comes with it will become customary for Beirut. Keep that in mind.

 

Advertisements

Dear Lebanon, The Garbage Crisis Is Not Giving You The Flu

Lebanon Garbage - 3

In the context of a country with any ounce of self-respect, speaking about a garbage crisis that has been going on since July would not only be old news by now, it would be solved old news. Except we don’t live in a country with an any amount of self-respect, and as such Greater Beirut’s garbage situation is still a topic, albeit less hot, of discussion.

A few months ago, when people were actually interested in the garbage crisis, which is to say when the garbage was visible on their streets and not tucked away in some valley somewhere or in a makeshift pyramid near the port, I wrote an article on this blog (link) about the health risks that the crisis might involve especially with the rain season.

As a very brief summary, in theory the garbage crisis and the many variables around it would cause the following:

  • Many types of bacterial infiltration of the waters,
  • Many heavy metals and other elements-related pollution,
  • Burning it will increase the amount of carcinogens in the air, as well as exacerbate respiratory conditions in people who have pulmonary disease when they have it.

As long term effects, we could be looking at an increased cancer incidence as a study after Italy’s waste management crisis in 2004 showed.

What the garbage crisis is not doing, however, is giving you the flu or other common infections that we encounter yearly.

Over the past few weeks, which happens to be the yearly flu season in Lebanon, everyone and their mother decided that whenever they got sick, it was because of the garbage crisis in Beirut. H1N1 – or as it’s more commonly known in the country now H1 and 1 – has become so commonly associated with the garbage crisis that the scientific community is probably considering whether to reconsider all the details surrounding H1N1 altogether.

We’ve also heard about “new” viruses attacking the country, such as metapneumovirus B, causing severe respiratory diseases.

This is, quite simply, incorrect.

For starters, metapneumovirus B is not a new virus. It’s been known for at least 40 years now and is actually one of the leading causes of respiratory infections in children worldwide. Lebanon has had this virus before, and it gets treated the same way we treat most viral infections: address the symptoms and provide the patient relief while their ailment resolves.

The case illustrated in this eTobb article (link) about a 25 year old who had a devastating respiratory infection secondary to the aforementioned virus remains, as it stands, a case that fell through the cracks of medicine in the sense that some people will get complications from common infections and we have no way to predict who would be the victim of such complications.

When it comes to H1N1, this is the current state worldwide:

Outbreaks are being reported in Bulgaria, Canada, Ireland, Ethiopia, Pakistan, etc. What do these countries have in common? Nothing, which is precisely the point.

Every year, the world is swept up by a strain of the Influenza virus which, when a person infected, gives them what is referred to as the flu: runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, fatigue, feeling pain all over your body for a few days, etc…. These symptoms usually resolve in a few days and you’re off on your merry way to health.

Some people may also be infected and not show any symptoms. The way this occurs is in sort of a pyramid fashion:

Assume 100,000 people in Lebanon got infected this year. 10,000 of those would show symptoms of the flu. Out of those 10,000 maybe around 100 would require hospitalization. And out of those 100 that needed hospitalization, 1 might die because of complications.

The garbage crisis overtaking Beirut has nothing to do with this. This will happen again next year, with or without a garbage crisis, and it will also happen the year after as it also took place in the years prior. Having a new shiny ribbon of erroneous but appealing explanation to wrap this whole thing with won’t make it go away. People are getting sick all over Lebanese territories simply because this is an infectious disease, not a garbage-related disease; the garbage does not cause H1N1 or the flu. It’s really that simple.

At this rate, getting the first case of Zika virus infection in this country will also be attributed to the garbage.

Therefore, I’m sorry to say that the answer to your question “how did I get sick” is simply “this is how things are,” and not “it’s the garbage that’s killing you.”

You can, however, protect yourself by practicing as much hygiene as possible. Thorough hand-washing is key to prevent the transmission of the influenza virus. Avoid sick contacts if you can. If you’re sick, don’t be a jerk and go around contacting others. Don’t trust your local pharmacist to start you on Tavanic or Klacid or whatever other medication he feels like giving you. This is a virus and antibiotics don’t work. Rest as much as you can, you’ll get better in a few days.