Ramesh Rawle, 46, still shudders at the mention of the monsoon.
Last year, his wife and he suffered a bad bout of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne viral disease. “We were both laid up for weeks,” said the Ganesh idol maker from Lalbaug, “I lost about 20 per cent of my business.”
Rawle claims the construction of a bridge and three large construction sites near his home contributed to the congestion, smoke and debris in the area, creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
With the monsoon now less than two weeks away, Rawle is not alone in preparing to battle a host of water-borne diseases. In a city with innumerable construction sites, blocked drains and unhygienic street food vendors, doctors suggest residents remain vigilant, purifying drinking water, clearing out stagnant pools and watching what they eat.
“The mounds of debris and construction material and the standing water at construction sites are ideal areas for mosquitoes to breed,” said Dr Pratit Samdhani, a physician at Jaslok Hospital. “Mumbaiites also need to be watchful for contaminated water and food, which can cause gastroenteritis, jaundice and cholera.”
Anticipating the annual monsoon rush of patients, civic hospitals have already started preparing for the season. KEM Hospital, Parel, has created a separate fever ward of 80 beds. Another 70 beds will be made available across the hospital for those with monsoon-related ailments.
Sion hospital has demarcated two wards with a total of 88 beds for monsoon diseases. “We have also started cleaning the overhead tanks in the hospital and will start conducting medical camps for awareness and prevention across the city next week,” said dean Dr Sandhya Kamat.
For those with symptoms of monsoon ailments — fever, chills, nausea, diarrhoea and muscle aches, among others — doctors advise immediate medical attention and warn against self-medication.
“If not treated on time, ailments such as malaria can lead to complications such as renal failure, adult respiratory distress syndrome or worse,” said Dr Monica Goel, consultant physician at Hinduja hospital.
Added Dr Amar Pazare, head of the department of medicine at KEM: “Last year, we admitted several malaria patients with multiple organ failure. This year, we are hoping greater awareness will reduce the number of such cases.”
‘I spent Rs 90,000 on medicines and hospital bills’
Ajit Bhatkal, 31
A bout of typhoid followed by malaria resulted in almost two months of sick leave for Ajit Bhatkal last monsoon. “When I took ill the first time, the blood test confirmed typhoid. The fever didn’t subside even after the medication and I was getting only temporary relief,” said the 31-year-old bank employee.
While he was still being treated for typhoid, Bhatkal was also diagnosed with malaria.
“I did not have a mediclaim policy. I spent almost Rs 90,000 of my own savings on hospital bills and medicines,” he says.
The doctors told Bhatkal that eating roadside food was one of the main causes of his illness. “On weekends, I used to love to binge on Chinese food, bhel puri etc,” said Bhatkal, a resident of a chawl at Sandhurst Road.
After the prolonged illness, Bhatkal also now makes it a point to carry filtered drinking water to work every day.
‘It took me six months to recover from chikungunya’
Ramesh Rawle, 46
Lalbaug resident Ramesh Rawle, 46, remembers with anger the small potholes that emerged near his home last monsoon. “As water and debris collected in the potholes, mosquitoes began breeding there and I believe that is how my wife and I got chikungunya,” said Rawle, a Ganesh idol maker.
In July, his body started aching and he developed a fever. Despite several visits to the hospital and a sustained course of medication, the couple continued to battle chikungunya for the next six months.
“There are so many construction sites in Lalbaug, so much congestion and air and water pollution. This monsoon, I plan to be extra careful,” he says.
This year, Rawle will avoid walking in puddles and will wash his feet carefully after he returns home or gets to work, to prevent leptospirosis.
“We cannot afford another protracted illness,” he says.