Monsoon sickness takes its toll

Monsoon sickness takes its toll

Monsoon sickness takes its toll
Battling floods for several weeks, Bengalureans are now caught up in another dangerous yet predictable mess: A spurt in vector-borne and enteric diseases, compounded by a shortage of ‘affordable’ hospital beds, and the usual lack of a quick remedial mechanism.

Dengue, with its life-threatening fall in platelet count, is back in big, worrying numbers. The number has exceeded 5,000 in the BBMP limits alone, a disturbing 35 cases reported every day. Chikungunya, characterized by its excruciating joint pains, is back too. So are typhoid, malaria and acute gastroenteritis. Is the health department prepared? Are the civic agencies battle-ready?

Running from hospital to hospital with a temperature of 101 Degrees, Rudresh Mani symbolises the city’s crisis: “This is the third medical facility I am visiting for help,” he says as the Manipal hospital staff prepares to get him admitted for Dengue.

Deadly Dengue

Rudresh’s had visited two other major hospitals in the city as his platelet count fell precariously to 10,000 and slipped again to 6,000. He had panicked as the fall from over a lakh in a matter of two days. “I thought I was going to die,” he says, fear still writ large over his face.

But Rudresh is just one among many who could find neither a doctor to attend to him on time nor emergency wards to wait in. Beds were in short supply in most of the hospitals that turned patients away.

The trend started early June, when intermittent rains hit the city leaving puddles of water home for larvae formation for aedesaegypti mosquitoes. These are known to cause Dengue fever apart from other forms of ailments.

Acute bed shortage

Dr KS Manjunath, superintendent of the Bowring and Lady Curzon hospitals contends that there was an acute shortage of bed in the hospital due to Dengue admissions. He says: “We had to admit patients in whichever ward that was free.” The number of Dengue cases started soaring to thousands in July from hundreds in June. By mid July, Dengue cases had touched 1,600.

Long queues could be seen outside hospitals and roadside clinics, as the unrelenting rain flooded streets and triggered contamination of sewage and drinking water. Conspicuous by their absence were the fogging operations, a standard response to combat mosquitoes breeding in stagnant waters. Only a few apartment complexes resorted to the practice as thousands of localities were left to fend for themselves.

Spike in cases

In Annasandrapalya, the Care & Cure clinic had patients line up in dozens as the diseases spiked just after the big deluge. “There were several cases of Dengue and Typhoid. So were many cases of viral illness, for which we gave symptomatic cure,” says Dr Niaz Ahmed from the clinic. “Unhygienic conditions in the surroundings are the obvious factors. The rains just worsened it. During July-August we had a huge number of gastro cases as well,” he recalls.

Chikungunya was not given importance till last month. But many private hospitals have been reporting a spike in these cases as well. Viral infections that cause swelling and virus accumulation in joints are the other ailments. Dr Sudarshan Ballal, chairman of Manipal hospitals talks about an increase in viral fever cases, some of them even admitted in ICU.

By the end of August, the number of Dengue cases had soared to around 5,000, viral infections to around 1,000 along and typhoid to 200. But BBMP chief health officer, Dr M N Lokesh sees this as an annual recurrence. “These are normal occurrences. We get these kinds of numbers every year,” he points out.

Checking larvaes

The government, he says, has intensified surveillance activities and posted adequate manpower to inspect sites to check larvae formation. “We expect the public to cooperate by clearing stagnant water within their compounds such as swimming pools and washrooms,” he says.

Gastroenteritis is another big worry. Reports from various hospitals indicate that both adults and children fall sick after drinking water contaminated with sewage. Dr Shilpa from Narayana hospital informs that this scenario has worsened in recent days.

There illnesses have been severe and prolonged this year, she says. “We have seen many viral pneumonia cases. The virus has learnt to survive in the body.”

Poor planning

Clearly, all signs indicate a lack of proper planning for the health of the city in general. “If there is a recurrence of the same diseases, it means something is wrong with the system. It cannot happen over and over. The government should at least plan five years before,” says Sylvia Karpagam, a community health specialist and public health doctor.

It is also important to eliminate garbage, reminds Dr Shilpa. Dengue mosquitoe-larvae, she says, grow in freshwater collection such as coconut shells, plastic cover. Potholes are also a breeding space.
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