Heavy rainfall and waterlogging interspersed with dry spells have triggered a spurt in gastroenteric diseases and raised the threat of an outbreak of malaria and dengue.
Clinics across town have reported a jump in the number of patients suffering from gastroenteric disorders, skin rashes and allergies.
Flooding caused by the showers on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning led the Calcutta Municipal Corporation to sound an alert for water contamination, especially in houses and apartment buildings with ground-level reservoirs.
“If rainwater seeps into reservoirs, the contamination can cause severe gastroenteric disorders. It pays to be extra careful about the water you drink at this time of the year,” a CMC official said.
He advised disinfecting ground-level reservoirs in flooded areas before using them to store potable water.
According to doctors, there is a heightened risk of bacterial contamination of drinking water after a round of waterlogging.
“Studies in and around Calcutta have shown that Vibrio cholerae and Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria are common in drinking water around this time. So being careful is the only solution,” said an official of the state health department.
The E. coli bacteria commonly lodges itself in the lower intestine and can cause serious gastrointestinal disorders, including loose motion and violent episodes of vomiting. The Vibrio cholerae bacteria causes cholera.
Doctors have warned against using contaminated water even in the bathroom.
Gastroenterolgist Sanjay De Bakshi said that besides being careful about the source of water, people should be strict about hygiene. “Wash your hands properly, avoid drinking water from sources you are unsure about and don’t buy cut fruits,” he said.
Another monsoon irritant is skin disease. “The most common are fungal infections caused by contaminated water. People with diabetes and other low-immunity conditions are particularly vulnerable to bacterial infections,” said dermatologist and t2 columnist Sachin Varma.
During monsoon, the hardness of water can lead to dry hair and skin. Varma advises using a mild shampoo and a moisturiser after a bath.
For those living in waterlogging-prone areas, mosquito-borne diseases are an imminent threat. “The CMC should take preventive measures now to ensure there is no accumulation of rainwater anywhere. If it fails to do so, dengue and malaria will torment the city around Durga Puja in October,” warned critical care expert Subrata Maitra, who chairs the expert committee on health set up by the state government.
A senior CMC official said the civic body had increased the frequency of spraying larvicides. “We have asked our ward offices to strictly monitor their localities. Since rainfall washes away larvicide, the brief is to spray it again the day after a downpour.”