Belgaum/Belagavi what do I say, my heart weeps as I see the thousands in distress, the houses gutted, the animals dead and water everywhere. But in this time of distress, there is a ray of hope and that is the high spirit of the people. My comrades, brothers and sisters stood like pillars giving what they could and this is something only humans with compassion can do. Today I stand proud as a Belgaumite, there is hope for us. However, we cannot loosen our guard. Now the water has started receding and we are trying to limp back to normalcy.
Mind you there is still no breather and the real problems will start now and that is why I want to give this message to all, it is now that serious health issues will surface.
The most important problem now will be that of health care and here I would like to give some info for the same. Basically, there are two types of diseases that we have to worry about, one the problem of foodborne diseases and second vector borne.
The foodborne diseases include cholera, hepatitis A, bacillary dysentery and viral diarrhea. The patients will have severe bouts of vomiting and loose stools which then causes hypoglycemia ( decrease sugars ), dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities. If not treated in time patient will develop renal failure, coma and possibly death.
So what do we do.
First, these infections spread through contamination of water with the drainage system which occurs in cases of floods. Today all the drains are clogged essentially due to the plastics we have dumped in them. The drains overflow and mix with sources of drinking water. There is even contamination of wells as their sources and nearby streams can pollute the water.
Don’t drink water directly, use only filtered or boiled water, it is not enough to only warm the water, it has to be boiled properly. See that the filter used is clean and new, as old filters are of no consequence. Do not eat raw fruits and don’t eat dead fish which are found near lakes. Try to avoid meat during this time, and if consumed cook it properly, do not consume stale food as it may be contaminated with bacteria and fungus.
If a person does develop gastroenteritis, do not starve him. It is important to hydrate the patient until help arrives. Drink plenty of fluids, lemonade, Ganji, water all are good.
If possible eat, eat what you can digest. Do not try to stop the stools, and wash your hands clean after every episode.
ORS can be procured locally and given as much as a patient can drink. Contact your doctor immediately and take proper medicines.
Hepatitis A is generally associated with jaundice and requires immediate admission, it is generally benign so don’t panic, sugarcane juice is of no use.
The other diseases are vector-borne diseases, vectors are usually insects like mosquitoes. The dreaded diseases are dengue, malaria, zika virus and chikungunya. While most of these diseases cause high fever there are different manifestations of each disease.
Malarial fever is high degree fever, it comes in periodic intervals of eight to twelve hours. The fever is typical for association with chills and rigors and comes down with profuse sweating. There could be jaundice and unconsciousness and death can occur if not treated promptly. As an immediate measure hydrate the patient, give paracetamol to bring down the fever and rush the patient to the nearest hospital.
Dengue is another disease, being a viral disease it has no cure but giving supportive care. The problem with dengue is that there is fever only initially, the real problems start after the fever goes down. This is the time when the platelets fall and the patient can be prone for bleeding. This is called dengue hemorrhagic fever and soon the patient can go in shock and die, but this is extremely rare and most patients recover after four to five days. Zika virus comes with nearly the same presentation. Chikungunya usually comes with high degree fever and severe joint pain, being a viral disease too it has only supportive care.
About these diseases, there is more of a misconception than education. Remember papaya and kiwi are fruits, good for health but they are not medicines for dengue, in fact, dengue has no medicines, it is a self-limiting disease.
Commercial vaccines for dengue are not yet available in the market, there are however few under testing. The efficiency of any other medicines or preventive solutions is of questionable efficacy as there is no proof, so do not fall prey to false propaganda and do not get negligent. Thirdly and most importantly, disease like these are treated by doctors not by neighborhood aunties or Google, so do not trust any social media, trust only your doctor.
What you really need to do is take precautions.
Mosquitoes have a short life but they breed at a very high rate, hence prevention of breeding is a good strategy, this can be achieved by destroying places which allow mosquitoes to breed. Most mosquitoes lay eggs in stagnant water or contaminated water, thus it is prompt to clean your surroundings, do not allow water to stagnate, coconut shells, plastic containers, small pits, tyres etc should be disposed of or closed.
Mosquitoes are prominently two types, Anopheles and Aedis Egypti, Anopheles causes malaria, while Aedis causes the other diseases. Anopheles is usually nocturnal and only the female bites, whereas Aedis bites even in day time, hence dengue is spread even in the day. This means we have to use mosquito repellents, mosquito nets and full clothing even during day time, especially for the children and elderly. In areas where mosquito breeding is possible fogging with insecticides should be done. If there is a stagnant pond then gambusia fish can be released in such waters, as these fish consume the larvae of the mosquitoes.
Another disease which is less frequent in Belagavi is Leptospirosis, its also known as ictero hemorrhagic fever which means there are bleeding and jaundice. The disease is caused by a delicate bacteria called leptospira and has a novel mode of spread. The organism is endemic in rats and rainwater is contaminated with the organism when rats pass their urine in stagnant water. Humans acquire this when they walk in such water barefoot, especially when there are injuries and cuts. The patient then has a fever, bleeding, jaundice and renal failure resulting in death if not treated. If such symptoms are seen do not waste time, take the patient to a doctor, if a treated early patient can be cured.
The disease can be prevented by avoiding going barefoot in the water, you can imagine in floods people loose everything including footwear, even rescuers go barefoot and this is dangerous.
Another problem which will surface now is fungal infections, there is a lot of moisture especially in the spaces in between the fingers and places which remain wet, especially when the feet are left in the water for a long time. The infections appear like white macerated skin and are associated with itching. The best treatment is to keep the skin dry, cover the parts with plastic bags if nothing is available and there is flooding of water.
Lastly, one more caution and this is regarding respiratory infections. Staying wet for a long time can cause pneumonia and respiratory infections, in elderly and smokers there can be bronchitis, these usually present with fever, cough, blood in sputum and wheeze. We need to take special care of the elderly and the small ones for in them it can be lethal. Wear warm clothing at all times, gloves and socks for the elderly should be a must. Keep them warm. For God’s sake do not smoke and drink at such times, these will aggravate the problem.
Please take care of your health, this message is for everyone, share it with your loved ones and keep them safe too.