Fears of infectious disease outbreaks in the aftermath of the Kerala floods appear to have been realised.
Cases of leptospirosis, acute diarrhoeal disease (ADD) and dengue fever have been reported from the afflicted state, where 483 people lost their lives in its worst floods in almost a century.
Kerala has reported 159 cases of leptospirosis in five districts so far with twelve deaths. The state also accounts for the majority of dengue deaths in India reported this year till July, with 21 people losing their lives to the mosquito-borne disease in the state. 2,897 cases have been reported.
“Cases of leptospirosis, acute diarrhoeal disease (ADD) and dengue fever have been reported from [Kerala], where 483 people lost their lives in its worst floods in almost a century.”
Floods leave populations vulnerable to a number of vector- and water-borne diseases. This risk has been exacerbated in Kerala because of mass displacement. 14.5 lakh people are being housed in relief camps according to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Overcrowding in these camps carries the potential for rapid transmission of diseases.
Following reports of infectious disease outbreaks, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has said it is monitoring in the situation. Having earlier sent rapid response teams and established 3,757 medical relief camps, the MoHFW is now also sending thirty specialist doctors, twenty general duty medical officers, forty Malayalam-speaking nurses and twelve public health teams – each consisting of a public health specialist, microbiologist and entomologist.
Reserves of emergency medicines are also being dispatched. On top of 73 metric tonnes of essential emergency medicines already sent, the Centre is sending an additional 120 MTs of essential drugs and consumables.
Kerala is sitting in a vulnerable position, even with floodwaters receding. As such, vigilance against the threat of communicable conditions is imperative. The provision of specialist personnel by the MoHFW is undoubtedly good news – and monitoring populations, especially those housed in relief camps, for signs and symptoms of infection is vital.