Malaria, Jaundice, Leptospirosis …. How to protect us from winter diseases?



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Threatening diseases of rainy season …. ways of protecting us from them!

It is natural to have different type of diseases based on seasonal changes. We can escape from contracting those diseases if we are little bit careful during those times. At present, it is raining and it is the time people will suffer from common cold, fever, cough and other health problems. 
What are the types of diseases that are common during rainy seasons and how to protect ourselves from them are explained by Dr Devaraj, General Physician. 

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Malaria

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Malaria is a vector borne disease spread by the biting of a particular species of mosquito called ‘Anopheles’. These mosquitoes have a tendency to bite us during night times and early mornings and are commonly found in the areas where there are water bodies or stagnation such as wells, lakes, ponds and paddy fields. There are four species of malarial parasites such as Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium falciparum. Among them it is the Plasmodium vivax that is the most common cause of malarial fever. The malarial fever caused by Plasmodium falciparum is highly dangerous as it affects the brain and also is life-threatening. 

The symptoms of malaria will begin just like the common fever with increased body temperature, headache and cough. Other symptoms like body pain, back pain, stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhoea will be added to those symptoms. Fever will be at regular intervals. There is no vaccination against malaria till now. The common treatment till today is prescribing Chloroquine and Primaquine drugs. One can get relieved of malarial fever by taking in drugs prescribed by the clinician for the defined period.

Dengue

This is a contagious fever spread by a mosquito species called Aedes aegypti serving as a vector. The symptoms are high fever, severe body pain, headache, joint pain, stomach ache, pain behind the eyes, nonstop vomiting and fatigue. Some may experience itching of skin or red dots on the skin. At its critical stage there will be internal bleeding and there will be reduction in platelet counts. 

There are four types of viruses that cause this disease. If a person is affected by one type of virus the same virus will not affect the person second time as there are antibodies already generated in the victim’s body. At the same time, the person might have affected by the other type of virus, causing dengue. Generally, 98 percent of those who are affected by dengue fever will recover naturally. There are no vaccinations discovered so far against these viruses. The patient should consume more amount of water and consume liquid foods. The patients remain under the care of clinicians till the fever gets cured.

Swine Flu

It is caused by a virus called ‘H1N1 Influenza’. It becomes more virulent especially at the time of winter and rainy seasons than any other seasons. It spreads through coughing and sneezing of the victims. 

A person affected with swine flu will have fever with shivering. If it is untreated and becomes serious then it will affect the victim’s brain, possibly causing death too. There will be breathlessness, chest pain and dizziness too. 

If there are symptoms of swine flu the victim should immediately get admitted in a hospital for treatment. It can be prevented by Trivalent Inactive Vaccine, shortly as TIV. It will protect one from swine flu for a year. It is recommended to have this vaccine shot before the advent of winter.

Typhoid

It is caused by a bacterial species called ‘Salmonella typhi’. The bacteria are spread through contaminated water and unhygienic foods. At the beginning it will cause fever, headache and body pain. Then fever will gradually increase, reaching its peak during night times. There will be lack of appetite. Other symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting and stomach ache. If the condition becomes severe and untreated there will be intestinal bleeding and damage of bile duct. 
Drinking clean water, consume vegetables only after thorough washing are some of the means of preventing typhoid. There is also vaccine available against it. Once the vaccine shot is taken it will cover us for three years.

Jaundice

It is caused by a hepatitis virus and spreads due to consuming contaminated water and unhygienic foods. Jaundice can also be caused when the liver is damaged due to alcohol consumption, side effects of drugs, leptospirosis, fatty liver and liver cancer.

Loss of appetite, fever, severe chilling, vomiting, stomach ache and eyes, skin, nails and urine turning yellow are some of the symptoms. 
Generally, jaundice will continue for four or five days or a week and disappear gradually. The victims should consume food items that are easily digestible and also drink clean and safe water. Recover will be faster if one follows the doctor’s advice. 

There are four types of jaundices, such as ‘A, B, C and D. Among these A and B types do not cause huge damage. And they have vaccines to deal with. But type C and D are life threatening.

Leptospirosis

During rainy seasons, there will be stagnated water bodies that are contaminated by the urine of rats and bandicoots. If their excreta contain the ‘leptospira’ bacterial germs that will cause leptospirosis or rat fever. Those who have foot sores, foot cracks and scabies and also those who do not wear foot wear will be prone to the fever as the germs can enter through the damaged foot. 

Cold, high fever, unbearable headache, muscular pain, body pain, vomiting and diarrhoea are some of the first stage symptoms. ‘Red eyes’ is the most important symptom of this fever. A victim at this stage of fever can be saved if medical care is provided immediately. If there is a failure, it will lead to serious complications, affecting the heart and brain, possibly leading to death.

Diarrhoea

Contaminated water and unhygienic foods are the sources of rotaviruses that cause diarrhoea. The basic treatment for this condition is to provide hydration to the victims. So, it is advised to provide more liquid foods for the victims.
General Steps to Protect us from the Diseases of Winter

  • Should have clean and safe drinking water
  • Ensure that there are no water stagnations at home and in the neighbourhood
  • Should have footwear when going out
  • Should avoid defecating and urinating in the public places
  • Use hand towels while coughing and sneezing
  • Avoid taking unsafe meat
  • Should have boiled milk 
  • Use vegetables only after thorough wash
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites
  • Maintain clean nails, cutting them when necessary 
  • Do not consume food items that are sold in an unhygienic condition
  • Use soap to wash your hands before food and also after defecation

Avoid going out at early or late hours of the day during winter, especially those who are suffering from asthma and sinusitis. If it is unavoidable then one should cotton plugs to protect the ears. It is better to avoid juices and ice creams as well. It is also advised to have warm drinking water and food items during winter.

(This article written in Tamil by G Lakshmanan has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)

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