The wisdom of closing down students’ hostels as a precautionary measure whenever jaundice breaks out, as had been done at Calicut University, is being questioned by health activists since they believe such actions would only serve to spread jaundice over a wider area.
By their decision the authorities are creating ideal conditions for the disease to spread to more places, experts said. The chances of the jaundice- affected students returning home and infecting relatives at home are considered high.
And in the case of students from backward areas, they also do not often get proper medical attention either. Jaundice spreads through contact with human excreta present in water or through clothes used by infected persons.
Health workers point out the tendency to shut down students’ hostels as had been done at Calicut University after the outbreak of jaundice there, is a major reason for increase in incidence of the disease in many places.
There was a similar experience in a hostel for nursing students in Omassery a few years ago. It is pointed out that whenever there is a major outbreak of jaundice, chances of those who show symptoms of the disease also falling sick in the following days is considered high, since the symptoms of the disease does not manifest during its incubation period.
The source of infection is probably contaminated drinking water drawn from polluted water resources.
The disease surfaces in these students soon after reaching home which results in others also contracting jaundice.
Health activists point out that instead of abdicating their responsibility for creating the unhygienic conditions which make students vulnerable to the disease, the authorities should be identifying the source of infection, probably polluted water sources, and taking steps to ensure availability of safe drinking water.
When there is an outbreak of jaundice, the problem had to be tackled at the place of occurrence, with timely medical care also, instead of creating conditions in which it would spread across a wider area as happens when students from different places are sent home from hostels .
Action also had to be taken against those entrusted with the responsibility to keep water sources clean and ensure supply of safe drinking water. It is also imperative that the condition of students sent home from hostels is monitored by health authorities and researchers since it is a major community problem.