Early on in the course of my MPH degree, I took a keen interest in water and the harmful things that can contaminate it, especially in the aftermath of a disaster. Specifically, I have primarily focused on learning as much as possible about microbial pathogens in water, and how these pathogens can affect human health.
The nidus for my interest in this subject came when I was reading about the cholera outbreak that occurred in Haiti in 2010 and 2011 after the earthquake.
During this epidemic, chlorination was widely used in order to clean water that was otherwise heavily contaminated and unsafe for consumption.
Despite this use of chlorine as well as other attempts to mitigate the spread of cholera, there were more than 650,000 cases, and over 8,000 deaths from this one outbreak alone.
These deaths should have never happened.
Cholera, and many other acute watery diarrheal illnesses, kill individuals mainly by causing a profound loss of fluids and electrolytes. Without treatment, this can lead to severe dehydration that can then rapidly devolve into hypovolemic shock and subsequent death in less than 24 hours in the most severe cases.
The treatment for these illnesses (in all but the most severe cases) consists of a simple solution with equimolar concentrations of sugar and salt (and now a few other electrolytes), and is called Oral Rehydration Solution or Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORS or ORT).
ORS was developed specifically for the treatment of cholera and it is THE BEST beverage a human can drink in order to get as much fluid from the gut as possible. It was widely used throughout the 2010/2011 cholera outbreak in Haiti, but problems with access, problems with mixing it correctly, and problems with finding clean water to make it with all limited its ability to prevent deaths.
In order to focus on these issues more directly, I decided to learn more about them through my MPH Internship. Through this internship at AU/UGA Medical Partnership Campus, I learned about water quality and water treatment, and how these issues fit into public health and medicine, with guidance from Dr. Jonathan Murrow.
Additionally, I applied my learning on these topics by writing my capstone project about an intervention method which aims to lower the morbidity and mortality of diarrheal disease outbreaks following natural disasters in resource-limited settings.
**Full Disclosure: These realizations led me to an idea for a point-of-use water treatment tablet which uses chlorine and a multilayered design in order to disinfect water for 30 minutes and then turn the water into ORS. I, along with my friend and classmate, Lee Brackman, started a company call PurLyte LLC and we are now patent pending for this tablet design. Our company has expanded to include two additional members. Once we have these tablets on the market, we plan on selling them to campers, hikers, and international travelers in order to generate revenue so we can fund donations of these tablets to humanitarian aid agencies and non-governmental organizations.**