With the South-West monsoon expected to arrive in Kerala by the first week of June, the state’s public health machinery has been put in top gear to cope with the seasonal incidence of communicable diseases, without slackening the COVID-19 containment efforts.
Apart from equipping the network of hospitals under the Department of Health and Family Welfare, down to the primary health centre level, to cope with the situation, public contact and disease surveillance programmes have also been stepped up. The thrust of the campaign is to make people aware of their critical role in reducing the burden of seasonal communicable diseases through personal and community level activities such as mosquito control, personal hygiene, environmental sanitation and safe drinking water. They will help check spread of disease-causing viruses to humans.
“The ongoing programmes such as Arogya Jagratha, the grassroots-level health awareness project carried out with the support of local self government institutions, have been stepped up. Enlisting the participation of people is a key component of communicable disease control efforts. This is especially important in the prevailing context,” said Dr V Meenakshy, Additional Director, Directorate of Health Services.
Apart from the motivational efforts, steps are also being taken to ensure that the government hospitals across the state are well-equipped to meet the emerging situation by ensuring that they have sufficient human resources, funds and stock of medicines and equipment,” Dr Meenakshy added. Lending a helping hand to the health workers, already fanned out around the state following the COVID-19 outbreak, workers of the Arogya Sena, a voluntary movement, have joined the home visits, without compromising social distancing norms, to tell people of the need to keep their homes and surroundings clean.
“Disease prevention activities are an important component of any robust public healthcare system. Kerala has always given due emphasis to these activities, which have assumed added significance in view of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Amar Fettle, State Nodal Officer, COVID-19.
They measures aim at educating the people about what they could do at their end to fend off spread of viral infections like dengue and H1N1, which have a history of recurrence in the state during the rainy season, he pointed out.
“In the present context, it is possible that many will get confused and become panicky when they develop symptoms of any type of fever. It would be difficult to make out one from the other. The way out is to seek medical aid without waiting,” Dr Fettle said.
Observing that infections like dengue are caused by mosquitoes, he said the thrust of dengue is mosquito eradication on the ground zero, which can be achieved through community involvement. “People must keep their surroundings clean and dry, individually and collectively, so that the immediate environs will not become the breeding ground for mosquitoes.”
For the prevention of Leptospirosis, a commonly reported ailment caused by bacteria during the monsoon, it is important to keep the home and the neighbourhood free of litters, especially food morsels, which attract rodents. The Health Department, and special missions under it such as Aardram working to make health services people-friendly, have stepped up their ongoing programmes in this direction.
Manual labourers are more vulnerable to Leptospirosis, which is mostly spread through the urine of rodents. The number of such jobs is set to increase with the employment guarantee schemes getting a boost in the relief packages, targeting the less privileged sections.
Water and food borne diseases like Acute Diarrheal diseases, Viral Hepatitis are also common during the monsoon period. Special attention to be given to personal hygiene and food safety. Drinking only boiled water itself helps in preventing water borne diseases. Consuming only fresh home cooked food taking care of personal and kitchen hygiene is the best way to prevent food borne diseases. Social media platforms have also been leveraged in a big way to mount the educative and instructive efforts by them, which have gained considerable traction.