Spurt in gastrointestinal and viral infections among children in Bengaluru

Updated - June 13, 2024 07:12 am IST

Published - June 12, 2024 09:17 pm IST - Bengaluru

Advising precautions, the doctor said parents should ensure children wash their hands frequently, especially before eating.

Advising precautions, the doctor said parents should ensure children wash their hands frequently, especially before eating. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Doctors in Bengaluru are noticing a spurt in gastrointestinal infections (acute diarrheal disease) and viral infections among children. While such infections are common during this time of the year, doctors said the number of cases they are seeing a week shot up by 20% in the last month.

Combination of factors

Attributing the rise to a combination of factors, doctors said the unpredictable monsoon pattern and higher circulation of foodborne viruses are the main reasons. The fluctuating weather can affect food storage and handling. Common symptoms among children include abdominal cramps, vomiting, loose stools, loss of appetite, dehydration, body ache, and fatigue, doctors said.

Dos and Don’ts
Ensure children do not drink water directly from the tap
Provide boiled and cooled water or encourage children to use RO-purified water
Keep surroundings clean and cover open water sources
Advise children to avoid eating outside food or fruits that have been cut and kept in the open
Avoid packaged and processed food

Chikkanarasa Reddy, professor of paediatrics at Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI), said he is seeing at least 10 children every day with acute diarrheal disease. “Most of them present with diarrhoea, vomiting, and dehydration. Many are requiring admission due to dehydration. Diarrhoea is usually a symptom of an infection in the intestinal tract, which can be caused by a variety of bacterial, viral, and parasitic organisms,” Dr. Reddy said.

Infection is spread through contaminated food or drinking water, or from person to person as a result of poor hygiene, the doctor said.

Parimala V. Thirumalesh, senior consultant – Neonatology and Paediatrics at Aster CMI Hospital, said a rise in foodborne gastrointestinal illness particularly among children is common during this time of the year. “However, this time we are noticing that the number of children reporting with gastrointestinal illness has shot up by 60%,” she said.

Advising precautions, the doctor said parents should ensure children wash their hands frequently, especially before eating. Fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before using. “One should practice healthy food storage and cooking practices, avoid eating raw, uncooked food, and eating directly from the refrigerator,” she said.

Veerendra Koujalagi, lead consultant- Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at SPARSH Hospital, Yelahanka, attributed the rise to environmental factors — the sudden shift from extreme summer to monsoon season. “With this, there will be an increase in infectious agents — viruses such as rotavirus; parasites such as Giardia lamblia and bacteria such as E.coli. Improper sanitation, stagnant water and unkempt water storage units spread these infectious agents, making children susceptible to gastrointestinal infections,” the doctor said.

Continuing trend

Lorance Peter, director – Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Sakra World Hospital, said waterborne diseases such as infective diarrhoea, viral hepatitis, gastroenteritis and typhoid have been on the rise during summer and are continuing now. “The rise among children is mainly because of water contamination. While airborne infections spread from person to person, a rise in water-borne diseases emphasises the importance of maintaining good hygiene and sanitation standards,” the doctor said.

Esha Gupta, consultant pediatrician and consultant pediatric intensivist at Motherhood Hospitals in HRBR Layout, said the high transmissibility of the virus, bacterial infections, inflames the stomach and intestines, resulting in symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and occasionally fever.

“This illness is contracted via the faecal-oral route and can easily spread in communities where people are in close contact, such as in schools, daycare centres, and nursing homes. Children below five years are vulnerable because their immune systems are not as developed and these children share toys and their belongings while in daycare or preschool,” the doctor added.

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