By Purvaja Sawant
Post the torrential rains on August 29, the city may have bounced back on its feet the very next day. But the woes of many Mumbaikars are far from over. People, especially those who got wet in the rain, waded through flooded streets to get home, or were involved in relief and rescue missions, are experiencing a host of seasonal ailments as an after-effect.
Waterborne illnesses such as leptospirosis and gastroenteritis, various forms of hepatitis and even mosquito-borne ailments like chikungunya are on the rise. While every monsoon, there is waterlogging and cases of infections crop up, according to city doctors, the past few days have seen a considerable spike in the number of patients visiting their hospitals and clinics. Take the case of Khushboo Sangoi, a PR consultant, who had to be hospitalised after she caught an infection walking in the rain. She says, "I had a small wound on my leg, which was exposed to rain water. Since I was wearing closed shoes, my feet remained wet and my body caught an infection. It all started with chills and then resulted in a temperature of 104 degrees. The next day, my eyes were red and I started getting rashes. My toe and thumb joints started hurting and I also experienced Myalgias (muscle pain). I finally took an injection for chikungunya."
BMC releases health advisory
Khushboo is one of the many people, who are suffering from the aftermath of the rains. After 2005's deluge, there was a dangerous outbreak of leptospirosis (an infection that's caused by harmful bacteria present in urine and fecal matter of animals) that claimed 66 lives. Hence, Tuesday's downpour caused health authorities to release a message for citizens as a precautionary measure. They have advised those who waded through rain water to take preventive antibiotics, until they visit a doctor. The advisory has categorised the risk of infection as high, moderate and low, depending on exposure to flood waters.
Dr Vikramjeet Singh, MD Physician, says, "Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial disease. Symptoms include chills, muscle cramps, headaches with high fever, bleeding from lungs or even meningitis, so urgent consultation is a must, else there is a chance of liver or kidney damage. Avoid walking in rain water if you have cuts or bruises on your body, as you are more susceptible."
With September 5 being the last day of Ganpati Visarjan, several Mumbaikars might get wet in the rain, as they take part in the festivities. Dr Harshad Limaye, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, suggests precautions that one must take to keep the leptospirosis infection at bay. "Ideally, it is recommended that 200 mg of Doxycycline (antibiotic) should be taken weekly from a week before one is likely to have such exposure. But given the unpredictable climatic conditions, people who walk through rain water should take the same dose once immediately afterwards." Leptospirosis usually strikes 7 to 12 days after a person wades through contaminated water. It can be prevented by the right dosage of antibiotics within 72 hours of contact with such water.
Even those who didn't get wet are at risk
Didn't get wet in the rain or walk through flooded streets last week? Well, don't heave a sigh of relief just yet. It's not just leptospirosis that's a cause of concern. Dr RK Singal, Principal Consultant and Director at a super speciality hospital reveals, "Cases of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue, malaria and chikungunya are being reported in large numbers. Unhygienic food and beverages from street vendors can also become a source of diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, hepatitis A. Rain water can get along many more problems like skin infections, typhoid, jaundice, malaria and stomach indigestion as the weather changes." Symptoms are mostly common like high temperature, cough, cold, headache, throat infection and stomach infection, so one must be vigilant.
Precautions to take to keep those illnesses at bay
The storm hasn't passed as yet. Here are a few tips to follow, to avoid getting infections...
- Dr KK Aggarwal, National President, Indian Medical Association, says, "Water stagnation encourages breeding of mosquitoes. Unchecked mosquito breeding can cause dengue, malaria and chikungunya. So, one must check water tanks, empty out flower pots and ensure that there is no breeding in the house or nearby surroundings. Use mosquito repellents extensively and wear full-sleeved clothing."
- Do not throw garbage in the open as it can attract rats and increase the threat of leptospirosis.
- Walking in rain water and getting wet can cause fungal infections. People with diabetes, in particular, should be careful to check for any fungal growth, especially between the toenails.
- Dr Singhal adds, "One should increase the intake of Vitamin C either in its natural form or as a food supplement. It will help drive away the cold virus faster."
- Keep yourself clean and detect early signs of weakness. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with an effective disinfectant before bringing them in contact with your eyes or mouth. If you don't have access to water, carry a sanitiser and use it before meals.