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Sanitation economy set to boom, will cholera be eradicated?

The sanitation economy of India is set to double thanks to Swachh Bharat claimed Jin Montesano, chief public affairs officer, LIXIL Group at the 18th World Toilet Summit. “Swachh Bharat Mission has generated significant interest in addressing the urgent sanitation issue in India, not only with traditional actors such as international organizations, but also with the private sector.”

Toilet blocks often remain unmaintained

Swachh Bharat, or Clean India, is a government measure to try and curb the rates of public defecation, as well as build toilets in rural areas. Initiatives such as this may aid in curbing the rates of outbreaks such as cholera and other diarrhoeal infection.

Outbreaks of cholera in India are not uncommon, and are far more prevalent in rural areas where medical attention is far less available. The absence of healthcare, as with many other diseases, turns the situation from dangerous to deadly. A cholera outbreak in Bhattian village in Punjab has affected more than fifty people, including one fatality.

The fatality was that of of an elderly man named Raseed Masih. The elderly are particularly prone to severe symptoms and death during outbreaks of cholera. The dehydration resulting from the illness can cause complications alone. Coupled with pre-existing conditions, the disease can be lethal.

The incident has resulted in containment procedures being introduced. These have included the closure of six public and private schools in the area to prevent the disease spreading among children. Specialised hospital wards have also been established to prevent hospital acquired infection and contain those affected.

The Health Department has been ordered to permanently station an ambulance in the village in response to a request by the villagers, who were finding it difficult to take patients to the Civil Hospital.

Water samples were collected from six different areas in Bhattian village by the district administration. All six of the samples have tested positive for cholera, forcing Deputy Commissioner Vipul Ujwal to continue clean-up operations and analyses of samples, all of which have been sent to the state laboratory in Mohali.

Accounts of the number of individuals affected by the outbreak have differed considerably. Civil Surgeon Dr Kishan Kumar claimed the number of individuals affected to be 58. However, villagers in the area have suggested that more than one hundred patients have already been treated at the Bhattian and Bhaini Mina Khan dispensaries and the Gurdaspur Civil Hospital.

The cause of these outbreaks in remote villages is usually traced back to the practice of open defecation. This was the case with more than fifty people in the Polasara area of Odisha’s Ganjam district. In a similar manner to Battian, a high prevalence of diarrhoea cases in a small amount of time alerted local authorities to the potential for cholera within the area.

Acute diarrhoeal disease (ADD) accounted for 312 of the 1,649 disease outbreaks reported till December 3, 2017 last year, according to data from the Union Health Ministry. This makes it one of the most common disease outbreaks in India, warranting proper investigation into its causes.


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