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A glass full of deadly water

Summer, that time of the year when swimming pools are brimming with people who've either come to beat the heat or to swim a few laps and keep themselves fit. Jaya Shroff Bhalla reports. Take these precautions | The disease chart

delhi Updated: Jul 11, 2011 01:35 IST
Jaya Shroff Bhalla

Summer, that time of the year when swimming pools are brimming with people who've either come to beat the heat or to swim a few laps and keep themselves fit. What is little known about swimming pools is that they are perfect breeding grounds for diseases if proper care is not taken.

Take Sabina Kamal's case. Her two sons-Farhaan (8) and Ayaan (4)-landed in the Intensive Care Unit of a city hospital after their usual swimming session at the neighbourhood club in New Friends Colony.

"The next day, Ayaan had a headache and Farhaan was running a fever. By evening both had high fever, which continued for 4-5 days with loose motions. Ayaan couldn't take the stress, started vomiting and spat blood twice. Then we rushed both the boys to the emergency at Max Hospital," said Kamal.

"How much can one protect their children? While I am extremely careful about the water they drink, who could fathom that they would catch an infection from the pool?" she said.

While the sudden onset of rains may have brought relief from the rising mercury for Delhiites, it has also brought with it a bundle of stomach problems.

Diarrhoea, jaundice, gastroenteritis, cholera and typhoid cases' have started coming in big numbers in the medicine departments across hospitals.

"We are seeing a surge of gastroenteritis cases with the arrival of monsoon-these could be viral or bacterial. Sometimes when it is toxin related, it causes food poisoning," says Dr Rahul Nagpal, head of department of paediatrics at Max Healthcare. He also treated Kamal's children.

"Flooding causes sewage to mix with the drinking water-the commonest causes of diarrhoea. Children less than five years are more prone to diarrhoea as they consume this water while brushing or bathing," he says.

Leaking trouble
The MCD records show that 13 out of 448 water pipelines passing through drains were reported to be leaking-causing the drinking water to mix with sewer lines-of which only two were repaired. Until July, the MCD had lifted 20,618 samples of water for testing, of which 2,084 samples, about one-tenth of the total water samples, were found unfit for drinking.

Residents in several colonies across Delhi have been complaining of sewer mixed water. "The situation of drinking water is really bad in Krishna Nagar area. For more than a month now, the tap water has been emanating a foul smell. It is impossible to drink that water even after boiling," says Savita Jain, resident of Radhepuri colony in Krishna Nagar. "This is resulting in patients falling prey to Hepatitis A infection," she says.

This trend is also being noticed in many hospitals in the city.

"Gastroenteritis and hepatitis A cases are not unusual at this time of the year, as people, especially children, are not careful about the water they drink," says Dr Sushum Sharma, senior consultant and head, preventive health programme at Max Healthcare.

"Viral hepatitis, which is a liver disease usually spreads through the faecal-oral route; transmitted person-to-person by ingestion of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A infection, is completely preventable as there is a vaccine unlike Hepatitis E," he says.

Protecting yourself
Avoid drinking unfiltered water or unhygienic food. "Most diseases this season are waterborne, hence, one must exercise extreme caution in what they are eating and drinking," says a senior doctor at AIIMS.

"Bad water leads to development of exotoxins in the body which result in almost instantaneous food poisoning leading to diarrhoea. People should drink a lot of filtered water and

avoid eating roadside food during this period," says Dr Richa Diwan, professor in the department of Medicine, Lok Nayak.

"Unfiltered water, roadside juices, ice, cut fruits and salad intake is best avoided. And if at all one is sick, re-hydration is usually the only cure and self-medication of antibiotics should be completely avoided," she says.

Take these precautions | The disease chart