HP monks face skin disease threat, health dept orders survey

  • Gaurav Bisht, Hindustan Times, Shimla
  • Updated: Sep 26, 2015 13:44 IST

Hundreds of Buddhist monks across Himachal Pradesh face the threat of tinea capitis, a superficial infection of the scalp endemic to monasteries and first noticed at Kaza. The health department has ordered medical checkups in all these abbeys in the state.

The aliment, also known has herpes tonsurans or ringworm of the hair/scalp, spreads fast. “The survey will give us the gravity of the situation,” additional chief secretary (health and family welfare) Vineet Chawdhary told Hindustan Times. Apollo Tele Health Services first noticed the skin infection among the young monks in a survey of the monasteries in and around Kaza in Lahaul-Spiti district, where it runs a telemedicine pilot project in collaboration with the health department.

Lahaul-Spiti, though biggest district of the state, has a small population of 34,000-odd to look after; but it also has a geographical disadvantage. Doctors and paramedics don’t want to serve in this remote area that remains cut off from the rest of the world for months of heavy snowfall season at the Rohtang pass, gateway to the tribal region. In the Buddhist-dominated district of many monasteries, families have a tradition of sending at least one of the children for monastic studies. “Thanks to telemedicine that the monks were able to get treatment,” said chief medical officer Dr ML Shashni.

The cause

“The Kaza telemedicine centre is connected to Apollo Hospital in Madras, which prescribed medicines for tinea capitis. “Unhygienic living conditions, besides the sharing of beds and blades caused the tonsured monks to catch this infection, requiring remote intervention from Apollo’s dermatologists,” said Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation president Dr K Ganapathy.

Of more than 150 monasteries in Himachal Pradesh, the major ones are Key, Dhankar, Hikkim, Tabo, Choskar, Ghungri, Ribba, Moorang, Sangla, Kanum, Nako, Pooh, and Ribba. Monasteries have also come up in Dharamsala, Rewalsar, Solan, Sirmour, and Kullu after Tibetan temporal and spiritual head the Dalai Lama fled Lhasa in after the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959 and settled in Dharamsala, which now is the nerve centre of Tibetan Buddhism.

What is tinea capitis

A disease caused by superficial fungal infection of the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes, with a propensity for attacking hair shafts and follicles. It is considered a form of superficial mycosis or dermatophytosis. Synonyms include

Grey patch on the tonsured head (indicating ringworm); dull, greyish, discoloured, broken, shorter hair; and skin lesions (typical ringworm patches) around the hair shafts.

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