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ABSA Cape Epic News

Hand hygiene should be an Epic focus during the drought

Completed over eight grueling days, the Absa Cape Epic is undoubtedly one of the world’s most recognised extreme races. With 650 teams participating, Mediclinic has taken into consideration the growing requirements for water in a resource stressed environment as well as the health threat this poses to riders.

Dr Jann Killops, Race Doctor to the Absa Cape Epic, believes that the ongoing drought in the region can potentially have a negative impact on the riders’ health if they do not take the necessary precautions during the race. “The extreme nature of the event combined with the prevailing drought conditions means that riders may be more likely to suffer heat illness, as the vegetation usually protects riders from radiant heat along the route. The terrain is drier than usual and this could impact the riders if they are not adequately prepared,” says Dr Killops.

Less water available also means we need to be more sensible about water used for hand washing. Mediclinic would like to be proactive in preventing food and water-borne diseases and minimise the water footprint of the race.

Poor hand washing is linked to a number of preventable  diseases such as gastroenteritis, hepatitis A, typhoid, so it is very important to decontaminate your hands frequently.

With the focus on riders’ health and being cognizant of the drought conditions, Mediclinic has launched a hand hygiene initiative as the ideal solution to assist the riders in keeping on top of their health especially when their immunity may be low due to peak training for the event. “To prevent possible incidental contamination during the event, Mediclinic has made hand hygiene points available across the race village to ensure continuous access to the anti-bacterial wash and thus prevent transfer of germs,” explains Jann.

“Much of the stomach issues riders may experience during the race is as a result of the high concentration food substitutes that riders take on as fuel during a long stage such as today,” Dr Jann explains further, “The last thing we want is any additional complications from the transfer of bacteria, so we are asking riders to keep this in mind across the race village. Simple things like fist pumps instead of hand shakes and using the hand hygiene points across the village can help the rider remain healthy.”

Within the hand hygiene chain, Mediclinic has identified 5 key moments that riders need to keep in mind during the event:

  • Before a meal
  • After a bathroom break
  • Before and after injury care
  • Before and after each stage
  • After sneezing, coughing and nose-blowing

With the prevailing water restrictions in mind, the Mediclinic Epic team have also carefully adjusted their water utilisation to be in-line with these limits, without compromising on the level of care they are able to deliver to their race participants.

One easily identifiable aspect was to adjust ice baths to utilise less ice. Where riders may present with elevated core body temperature or other heat related issues, an ice bath is standard protocol to quickly bring their body temperature within an acceptable range. While the ice bath is a necessary medical tool, the team have identified the opportunity to reduce their water footprint by adjusting the bath’s capacity. They have also put plans in place to ensure the ice on hand remains frozen with a mobile freezing unit, reducing any possible wastage. Through conscious planning this resultant grey water can also be recycled elsewhere in the race hospital preparations.