Summer is synonymous with parched throats and dry taps on one side while on the other, it is also the season when generally one expects a rise in viral hepatitis, acute diarrhoeal diseases, gastroenteritis, and typhoid.
Safe drinking water is considered to be one of the most critical public health interventions that can bring down the incidence of water or food-borne diseases. Yet, in many parts of the district, acute shortage of safe drinking water, especially in the summer, results in people depending on water sourced from various localities, regardless of its quality.
In the coastal areas, people are more or less dependent on water supplied by tanker lorries for drinking and cooking purposes. Stored water can be contaminated easily if the storage practices are not perfect and preparation of food using contaminated water can lead to acute diarrhoeal diseases or even viral hepatitis.
However, in spite of the fact that treated, purified, and chlorinated water supplied by the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) is not accessed by the majority in the district, Thiruvananthapuram remains one of the districts with the lowest incidence of water and food-borne infections.
“The district has very low incidence of Hepatitis A and typhoid and in our context, more than water, it is contaminated food that is responsible for most cases of gastroenteritis and diarrhoeal diseases. The public is aware of the fact that drinking water should be boiled before drinking. We dread the monsoon when contamination of water sources occurs by water leaching from garbage piles or soak pits,” says N. Sulfi, a physician working in rural areas.
District health administration takes up chlorination and superchlorination of water sources to check incidence of water-borne diseases during summer. “We do see a lot of cases of asymptomatic or anicteric hepatitis, which presents as gastritis, lack of appetite, or occasional vomiting, which is linked to unsafe food or water.
However, with proper rest and a high carbohydrate-low protein diet, the condition resolves itself without much complications,” says Amar Fettle, State nodal officer for H1N1.