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The storm hasn’t passed: Mumbai docs brace for post-rain spike in monsoon diseases

Doctors said thousands of people who waded through flooded streets to reach their homes and workplaces are liable to contract water-borne diseases such as leptospirosis, gastroenteritis and various forms of hepatitis. An increase in mosquito-borne ailments is also expected.

mumbai Updated: Aug 30, 2017 12:05 IST
Sadaguru Pandit
Sadaguru Pandit
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Mumbai floods,Rain,Water-borne diseases
People wade through waist-deep water on a flooded Mumbai street. (PTI photo)

The downpour that inundated many parts of Mumbai on Tuesday may be drawing to an end, but the city’s woes are far from over.

According to doctors, thousands of people who waded through flooded streets to reach their homes and workplaces are liable to contract water-borne diseases such as leptospirosis, gastroenteritis and various forms of hepatitis.

Leptospirosis – categorised as a monsoon disease – is caused by the leptospira bacteria present in the urine and faecal matter of animals like rats, dogs and cattle. When people wade through flooded streets, there is a high possibility of being infected with the water-borne bacteria. Those with wounds or cracked skin are particularly susceptible.

“The city had not experienced severe water-logging until now. That was the reason for fewer cases of such infections cropping up this year,” said Dr Prahlad Prabhudesai, consultant chest physician at the Lilavati Hospital.

Around 27 cases of leptospirosis and 344 instances of gastroenteritis – a stomach infection caused by ingestion of water and food contaminated with bacteria and viruses – were reported across Mumbai in the first half of August. “Floodwater causes a number of infections because it is primarily a mixture of sewage and discharge from various outlets of waste water. We fear a sudden spike in the number of patients due to large scale contact with contaminated water,” said a municipal health official.

Dr Pradip Shah of Fortis Hospital said people with cuts, abrasions or open wounds on legs or other areas of the body exposed to dirty water are at high risk of leptospirosis. “As a precautionary measure, T Doxycycline (100 mg) may be taken twice a day immediately after you come in contact with contaminated water. It’s also important to visit a doctor to ascertain that you aren’t infected,” he added.

Officials are also concerned about a spurt in breeding sites for the aedes aegypti mosquito, which acts as a carrier for dengue, chikungunya and zika viruses.

Dr Padmaja Keskar, Mumbai’s executive health officer, said patients must avoid self-diagnosis and strictly follow treatments prescribed by medical professionals. “Mosquito breeding generally increases during the monsoon. Residents must ensure that there is no water collection in their houses or the general vicinity, and wear clothes that cover their arms and legs to prevent mosquito bites,” said Dr Keskar.

As many as 558 cases of malaria and 49 instances of dengue were reported by the civic body between August 1 and 15. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said a majority of such cases were recorded at Parel, Sewree, Lalbaugh, Kalachowki, Worli, Koliwada, Jijamata Nagar, Dhobighat, Dharavi, Matunga Labour Camp, Mahim, Kandivali, Borivali, Dahisar, Ganpat Patil Nagar and Mulund. Being low-lying areas, these localities witnessed intense water-logging on Tuesday.

The ten commandments of safety

• Keep your surroundings clean, and drain stagnant water – which aids breeding of mosquitoes – whenever possible.

• Wear full-sleeved clothes to decrease the possibility of mosquito bites.

• Use mosquito repellents that are safe for children and pregnant women. Prioritise the use of mosquito nets.

• Staying in a cool room may help, considering that mosquitoes prefer warm environs.

• Avoid wading or swimming in potentially contaminated water bodies (pools, ponds or rivers). If you have to do so, wear protective clothing such as boots, gloves, spectacles, aprons and masks to prevent accidental intake.

• Cover skin lesions with waterproof bandages while navigating through flooded streets to prevent infection by bacteria and other pathogens.

• Shower after exposure to contaminated surfaces, soil or water. Clean wounds frequently.

• Disinfect contaminated areas such as stables and abattoirs whenever possible.

• Drink water of certified purity, and ensure that your water purifiers are serviced regularly.

• If your fever persists for more than five days, consult a doctor immediately.

First Published: Aug 30, 2017 11:35 IST