Sunday, July 4, 2010

Diarrhoea is city’s worst nightmare

Diarrhoea is city's worst nightmare

Even as the city's civic authorities spend crores on malaria control and H1N1 vaccination drive, another problem — that of diarrhoea, which tops the list of illnesses in Mumbai — is being completely ignored.

The discovery happened through a ward-wise study on the top five diseases detected in the city's civic dispensaries.

Diarrhoea had the highest incidence — 1,57,575 registered cases in 158 dispensaries across the city's 24 wards in a two-year period from January 2008 to November 2009.

Hypertension came in second with 32,753 cases, followed by malaria and tuberculosis with 27, 025 and 19,561 cases respectively. Diabetes with just 4,898 cases was fourth on the list.

The information was compiled by the Praja Foundation — a Mumbai-based voluntary organisation that works on urban and civic issues, particularly pertaining to health, education and crime — after a right to information (RTI) application was filed to find out the number of cases registered in the city's civic dispensaries.

"The idea of the RTI was to make corporators aware of the problems faced by the city, which need to be addressed on a priority basis. We will be sending a copy of the report to the civic commissioner and all the corporators," said Nitai Mehta, managing trustee, Praja Foundation. "While other illnesses are no less important, the authorities should not ignore diarrhoea."

The study revealed that L Ward (Kurla-West) is the worst affected by diarrhoea with maximum patients being from here, while P-south Ward (Goregaon-West) was the least affected. "Barring A Ward (Colaba) where the maximum cases registered were that of hypertension, diarrhoea was the number one ailment in all the rest 23 wards," said Mehta.

Not surprisingly, the incidence of diarrhoea in the city peaked during the rainy season. "That is why it's all the more important for civic authorities to start an active campaign — like the one they have for malaria," added Mehta. "It's a combination of factors such as drinking contaminated water, eating roadside food, lack of sanitation and personal hygiene, which result in diarrhoea."

However, Dr Philip Abraham, consultant gastroenterologist at Hinduja Hospital, said diarrhoea is too broad a classification. "One would have to find out what kind of diarrhoea the patients were suffering from to determine the exact cause of it," added Abraham.

On Monday alone, the city's public and private hospitals saw 78 cases of gastroenteritis being admitted. 1,480 gastroenteritis cases have been registered since June 1, according to the health records with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The BMC's health department even brings out a circular at the onset of monsoon, advising people to refrain from eating outside food. "Ward officers, the medical officer for health in each ward as well as the licence department have been informed to keep a strict vigil on roadside stalls," said Dr Daksha Shah, head of epidemiology cell of the BMC.

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