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MONSOON MENACE

Monday, July 17, 2017

Along with the cold breeze and heavy rains, the monsoons also being along a rise in the mosquito population with the threat of serious diseases. Pearl Mathias & Trisha Ghoroi spoke to doctors to tell you how to identify and prevent these diseases

Mosquitoes are carriers of viruses, and when they feast on our blood these viruses are transferred to us, which results in serious illnesses. These deadly diseases can be mistaken for normal fever, but it’s recommended to check with your doctor rather than rely on self-medication. However, sometimes it is difficult even for doctors to identify these diseases, because different illnesses can have similar symptoms, and fever is one of them. Taking simple precautions can protect you from these diseases, or at the very least decrease your chances of being affected. We spoke to doctors across the city to find out more about these illnesses. Keep these tips in mind all throughout the season.

Malaria
Malaria is a life-threatening disease transmitted through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. These infected mosquitoes carry the plasmodium parasite, and when they bite you, this parasite gets into your bloodstream. Congenital malaria occurs when an infected mother passes on the virus to her baby in the womb.

  • Signs to watch for: Dr. Vaishali Lokhande, MD (Med) DNB (Med), consultant of internal medicine at Apollo Hospitals in Navi Mumbai, tells us that malaria usually begins as a high-grade fever with chills, headache, vomiting and extreme fatigue. As the disease progresses, a person may experience dizziness and difficulty breathing as blood pressure drops and complications set in. “Extreme breathlessness, blood in the stool and decreased urination can be seen in complicated situations,” adds Dr. Yogesh Velaskar, consultant internal medicine and critical care at Hinduja Hospital, Khar.
     
  • How to combat it: If you live in an area where malaria is prevalent, simple steps such as sleeping under a mosquito net, keeping your skin covered and using insect sprays or mosquito repellants will do you good. “Timely medical advice and lab tests to confirm malaria helps to prevent complications. As there is definitive treatment for malaria, one should consult a physician at the earliest,” advises Dr. Vaishali. 

Dengue
A painful, debilitating mosquito-borne illness, dengue is a viral disease spread by several species of the Aedes mosquito. The disease has been a global problem since World War II and is common and prevalent in more than 110 countries.

  • Signs to watch for: Dr. Vaishali tells us that dengue presents with a fever, aches and pains, fatigue, backache, dizziness, pain in the abdomen and vomiting. In extreme cases, eventually as the person’s blood pressure drops and platelet count starts falling, a person may experience bleeding from the gums, faintness and difficulty breathing.
     
  • How to combat it: A vaccine for dengue has been approved and is commercially available in a number of countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) only recommends the vaccine as a possible option in areas where the disease is prevalent. “As there is no specific treatment for dengue, the usual therapy is paracetamol for fever, adequate fluid intake to avoid dehydration, and rest,” says Dr. Vaishali.

Typhoid
An infection caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhimurium, which lives in our intestines and bloodstream, typhoid is spread between individuals by direct contact with the faeces of an infected person. Dr. Neeraj Tulara, specialist in internal medicine and infectious diseases at Dr. L H Hiranandani Hospital, Powai, tells us that typhoid is a water-borne disease and it mainly spreads by consuming infected water, which is very common in the rainy season due to sewage mixing with drinking water in many areas of the city.

  • Signs to watch for: “The disease initially presents itself as a low-grade fever, with abdominal discomfort, headache, loose stools and vomiting. The fever gradually worsens with poor intake and weight loss. Delay in treatment can rarely result in typhoid delirium and intestinal complications such as bleeding or ulcer perforation,” says Dr. Vaishali.
     
  • How to combat it: When travelling to a high-risk area, it is important to get vaccinated against typhoid fever. You should always be careful of what you eat and drink. Drink only bottled water, and if that isn’t available, make sure that the water you’re consuming has been adequately boiled. Be careful about eating street food and make sure to peel fruits yourself before you eat them.

Jaundice
Also known as icterus, jaundice is a term used to describe a yellowish tinge of the skin and sclerae (the white part of the eye) caused by an excess of bilirubin (a waste product that remains in the bloodstream after iron is removed from haemoglobin in red blood cells) in the blood, also known as hyperbilirubinemia.

  • Signs to watch for: Dr. Vaishali tells us that an infected person presents with symptoms such as a mild fever and a body ache for few days before nausea, vomiting and fatigue set in. There may be yellow discolouration of the eyes and urine, and in extreme cases, drowsiness and bleeding if liver failure sets in.
     
  • How to combat it: Since the disease is related to a function of the liver, in order to prevent it, you need to take adequate care of your system. It’s essential to eat a balanced diet, avoid excess consumption of alcohol (or drinking altogether) and get regular and adequate exercise.

Chikungunya
Chikungunya is an infection caused by the chikungunya virus. This virus is spread between people by two types of mosquitos — Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti. The virus can also circulate in a number of animals, including birds and rodents.

  • Signs to watch for: Its symptoms can be mistaken for those of dengue fever and Zika fever. Dr. Vaishali tells us that the symptoms present as fever, rash and crippling joint pain that can disable the sufferer for several weeks. Headaches and muscle pain are a few other symptoms of this disease.
     
  • How to combat it: The best way to prevent the occurrence of chikungunya is by overall mosquito control. “The mainstay of therapy is mild analgesics, adequate hydration and rest. At times, there may be complications necessitating hospitalisation,” adds Dr. Vaishali.
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