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Monsoon in India: Rainy season can bring many diseases; know preventive measures and early diagnosis

Many of these monsoon illnesses go untreated until they damage an organ or organ system. However, one may keep themselves safe throughout this fatal illness season by practicing basic hygiene, adopting preventative steps, and receiving early diagnosis.

Monsoon in India: Rainy season can bring many diseases; know preventive measures and early diagnosis
First Published May 30, 2024, 7:00 AM IST

Did you know that during monsoon the risk of being exposed to multiple viruses, bacteria, and other infections is twice higher than in any other season? This is because there is an increase in the moisture content in the air that favors thriving of harmful microorganisms and thus increasing the chances of transmission of several diseases. Many of these monsoon diseases often remain undiagnosed until they negatively affect an organ or organ system. However, one can keep themselves safe during this deadly season of diseases by following certain basic hygiene and taking preventive measures and early diagnosis.

Common Monsoon Diseases in India

 A. Mosquito-borne diseases

The monsoon also doubles as a breeding season for mosquitoes, resulting in a significant increase in mosquito-borne diseases. India has a substantial burden of mosquito-borne diseases, accounting for 34% of dengue cases worldwide and 11% of malaria cases worldwide.

  • Malaria is one of the major monsoon-time health concerns in India. It is caused by a single-celled parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted by female Anopheles mosquitoes. Anopheles breeds in water channels and streams, which are abundant during monsoon season. Hence, there is increased parasite transmission, resulting in increased cases of malaria.
  • Dengue is a viral fever caused by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. It is transmitted by mosquito breeding in stagnant water such as wells, flower pots, and tree holes or stored water such as buckets or drums. With the change in landscapes and urbanization, these organisms have adapted themselves and are now found in urban homes.
  • Chikungunya, is a non-fatal viral disease caused by the Aedes albopictus mosquito which breed in stagnant water and can bite you throughout the day. ‘Chikungunya’ literally means ‘that which bends you up or causes stooped walking’. The disease gets its name due to its distinct arthritic symptoms including stiffness and pain in the joint and bones.

Monsoon in India: Rainy season can bring many diseases; know preventive measures and early diagnosis

How to Stay Safe from Mosquito-borne Diseases This Monsoon

  • Use mosquito nets in your house.
  • Ensure there is no water collection or stagnant puddles anywhere around the house.
  • Maintain hygiene in the wash- and bathrooms.
  • Apply mosquito repellants before leaving home.
  1. Water-borne Diseases

The World Health Organisation (WHO), data suggests that every year over 3.4 million people are affected by water-borne diseases in India. Children are mostly affected owing to their developing immune system, making them prone to contracting diseases.

  • Typhoid, caused by S. Typhi bacteria. It is a water-borne disease that spreads due to poor sanitation and hygiene. The disease is transmitted through feco-oral route (transmission of the disease through consuming food contaminated or water supply by feces of an infected organism, after the hands have touched contaminated items and have not been washed). The two major causes of typhoid include eating uncovered or spoilt food and drinking contaminated water.
  • Cholera, also caused due to poor sanitation and consumption of contaminated food, is accompanied by diarrhoea or loose motions.
  • Leptospirosis, also known as Weil’s Syndrome. Contact with dirty water or muck/mud during the monsoon season is the major cause of leptospirosis transmission. Symptoms are accompanied by shivers, muscle pain, headache, and fever. If you have any cuts or bruises, it's important to keep them covered before going outdoors.
  • Jaundice, characterized by yellowing of the sclera (white part of the eyes, urine, and other mucous membranes, vomiting, liver dysfunction, fatigue, and weakness, is a water-borne disease. It is contracted through contaminated food and water, and poor sanitation. EXAMPLE: Hepatitis A and E
  • Gastrointestinal infections, such as vomiting and diarrhea (gastroenteritis), are caused by the consumption of stale, uncovered, or contaminated food and water.

Monsoon in India: Rainy season can bring many diseases; know preventive measures and early diagnosis

Ways to Stay Safe from Water-borne Diseases This Monsoon

Practicing certain preventive and precautionary measures can help you stay away from water-borne diseases:

  • Consuming boiled and cooled water.
  • Washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consumption.
  • Keeping the foods covered at all times.
  • Avoiding consumption of outside food.
  • Ensure personal and environmental hygiene is maintained at all times (carry a hand sanitizer or wash your hands often).
  • Preventing water stagnation in the surroundings of your home or closing/covering the open drains and potholes.
  • Ensuring your children have got all the seasonal vaccinations.
  1. Airborne Diseases

A flare in several airborne infections is seen with the arrival of monsoon. Tiny pathogens, or disease-causing viruses, carry these illnesses through the air and cause common flu, viral fever, colds, coughs, and sore throats. In most cases these infections are mild and self-limiting with rest. However, people with weak immune systems, such as senior citizens, pregnant women, individuals with immunocompromised health conditions and children whose immune systems are still developing, are more prone to infections during this season.

The most common air-borne diseases are:

  • Cold and flu, the most common viral infection, is caused due to the sudden fluctuations in temperatures during the monsoon. People with a weak immune system are more prone to contracting these minor infections. A sore throat, runny nose, watery eyes, fever, and chills often accompany flu during monsoons.
  • Influenza, A/ H1N1

How to Stay Safe from Airborne Diseases This Monsoon?

Airborne diseases are most easily transmitted from person to person. Following preventive measures are helpful in ensuring you a happy and flu-free monsoon: 

  • Practice sneezing into your elbow or covering your mouth and nose with a handkerchief while coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid drinking water outside; it is advisable to carry your own bottle of boiled water and sip warm water every few hours throughout the day.
  • Educate your children to stay safe from those infected with flu or visible flu symptoms.
  • Practice frequent hand-washing and ensure your children wash their hands and feet thoroughly once home from the outdoors.
  • Ensure your homes are well-ventilated at all times.

General tips:

  • Always hydrate always; drink only boiled water and avoid drinking anything outside.
  • Follow a strict personal hygiene routine at all times to avoid fungal infections.
  • Wear full-sleeved and light clothes to protect your skin.
  • Eat a nutritionally balanced diet that helps in boosting your immunity.
  • Consume freshly washed, boiled vegetables, reduce your intake of fats, oils, and sodium, and avoid dairy products, as they can contain harmful microorganisms.

Dr. Sunil Havannavar, Senior Consultant - Internal Medicine, Manipal Hospital Sarjapur

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