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Plague may revisit flood-hit Surat

india Updated: Aug 16, 2006 14:36 IST
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The spectre of the 1994 plague - that created international headlines - looms large on the flood-hit residents of Surat in Gujarat, a disaster management institute has warned.

The Academy for Disaster Management, Education, Planning and Training (ADEPT) has issued a special health alert to non-government organisations and residents of Surat. The Academy has cautioned them against the possibility of a plague-like situation that occurred in 1994.

In a specific note on Surat ADEPT observed said: "Residents of Surat have begun to throw out rotting food, soggy mattresses and all garbage on the roads as the floods recede."

"Here the spectre of the 1994 plague looms large," ADEPT director U Gauthamadas said.

The plague in 1994 that began in Surat that is also a major diamond processing and textile hub in western India killed at least 50 people.

"After the 1994 flood people started dumping garbage on the streets creating an environment for rats to thrive in. Villagers moved to new homes and converted their old, damaged homes into granaries to store food. The rats thrived here," he pointed out.

Physicians and pharmacists fled the city with treatment drugs for their families and friends.

"Active steps have to be taken to prevent this," the director said.

ADEPT has issued some guidelines to prevent the outbreak of plague. "To prevent a plague risk effective environmental sanitation must be ensured in places where people live, work and visit for recreation. All food sources for rats should be removed and homes, buildings, workplaces, warehouses and feed sheds should be made rat-proof," ADEPT, said.

ADEPT said if sick or dead rats are spotted it should be reported to the health department.

The academy has also cautioned against the spread of the Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). HPS is a deadly disease transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings, or saliva.

The academy has advised government relief agencies and civil society groups to clean up rodent-infested areas.

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