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The Indian monsoon is said to be one of the biggest monsoon systems in the world - with winds blowing from the south-west immediately after the summer months. 

Of course, rainy days bring most of the country relief after the sweltering heat. But they also bring in their wake infectious diseases and the vectors that transmit them. Case in point: diseases where mosquitoes are the vector, such as dengue fever and malaria, are more common in this season. As are bacterial infectionsviral infections and fungal infections that cause diseases like typhoid feverhepatitis A and ringworm, respectively.

As with most diseases, prevention is better than cure. And awareness is the first step to achieving prevention. In this spirit, read on to know about the most common diseases of the monsoon, their symptoms and what you can do to avoid getting sick.

Mosquito-borne diseases

Waterlogging is a common problem during the rainy months. And stagnant water is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes: mosquitoes lay their eggs in water. The eggs can hatch within a few days, but they can also survive for several months if conditions are not favourable. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae become full-grown mosquitoes in about a week. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called mosquitoes “one of the deadliest animals in the world”. They spread diseases like:

Malaria:

The female Anopheles mosquito spreads malaria as well as lymphatic filariasis (the mosquitos can transfer the larvae that cause elephantiasis from a sick person to a healthy person). WHO data show that in 2017, malaria affected 219 million people and killed 435,000 globally. 

Symptoms:

  • High fever accompanied by chills at regular intervals
  • Bodyache
  • Weakness

Precautions:

  • Use mosquito repellant
  • Wear full-sleeved shirts or kurta and pants to cover most of your body
  • Use mosquito nets while sleeping
  • Fill any water puddles around your home with mud
  • Spray insecticides, if necessary

Dengue:

Another mosquito-borne disease that becomes a national concern during the rainy season every year is dengue. It is caused by a virus, but transmitted to humans by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. WHO data show that 2.5 billion people around the world are now at risk for Dengue fever.

According to a study funded by the Indian Council for Medical Research, and published in The Lancet Global Health science journal in 2019, India has a high burden of dengue. 

The study, conducted from June 2017 to April 2018 with 17,930 participants, found that 48·7% of children aged 5-8 years had the dengue pathogen in their blood (seroprevalence). The prevalence was 41% in participants aged 9-17 and 56·2% among individuals between 18 years and 45 years of age. 

Symptoms:

  • High-grade fever with chills
  • Joint pain
  • Severe body ache
  • Petechiae (red spots underneath skin that indicate bleeding)

Precautions:

  • Keep yourself protected from mosquitoes by using a mosquito repellant
  • Wear clothes that cover the body, especially the legs and feet as the dengue-carrying mosquito flies close to ground
  • Use mosquito nets while sleeping
  • Don't let water collect in or around your home

Chikungunya:

The chikungunya virus, simply called CHIKV, is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. Andhra Pradesh, New Delhi, Karnataka, Maharasthra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Gujarat and Kerala have the highest incidence of chikungunya in India.

Symptoms:

Precautions:

  • Protect yourself from mosquitoes by using mosquito repellent aerosol in the home or applying mosquito repellent cream on the body
  • Wear clothes that cover your whole body
  • Use mosquito nets while sleeping
  • Avoid water collecting in puddles in and around your home

Water-borne diseases:

Diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and jaundice spread through the consumption of contaminated food and water.

Typhoid:

Typhoid fever is caused by Salmonella typhi bacteria.

Symptoms:

Precautions:

  • Make sure you drink filtered or packaged water
  • Avoid street foods, especially popsicles
  • Wash fruits and vegetables properly
  • Wash your hands before eating 
  • Keep your home and surroundings clean

Cholera:

Cholera is another water-borne disease that is common in this weather. It is caused by the Vibrio cholerae bacteria.

Symptoms:

Precautions:

  • Get your child and yourself vaccinated for cholera
  • Drink boiled or packaged water
  • Wash your hands before eating
  • Don't eat outside food
  • If there are cases of cholera in your area, amp up these precautions

Leptospirosis:

Also known as Weil's disease, leptospirosis spreads through contact with contaminated water or soil, mixed with the urine of infected animals.

Symptoms:

  • Fever with chills
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Inflammation of liver and spleen

Precautions:

  • Before stepping outside, wear shoes which protect the feet from getting wet
  • Take care of your pets  and maintain their hygiene
  • Don't leave wounds open in this weather

Viral diseases:

From a runny nose to jaundice, viral infection can cause a range of diseases.

Viral fever:

Viral fever can occur during any season, but there is usually an uptick during the monsoon. Viral fever is caused by many viral strains, all of which have the same presentation.

Symptoms:

Precautions:

  • Avoid getting wet in the rain
  • Keep your distance from someone who has viral fever
  • Gargle with salt and water every day

Flu or common cold:

Another extremely common viral disease is the flu. Children are especially susceptible on rainy days when it is also cold outside.

Symptoms:

  • Runny nose
  • Mild fever
  • Irritated throat
  • Body pain and weakness

Precautions:

  • Avoid contact with a person who has a cold or the flu
  • Drink warm drinks and eat hot soups
  • Eat healthy to strengthen your immune system, in order to fight the virus

Hepatitis A:

Hepatitis A virus affects the liver. Infection is more common among children below five years of age.

Symptoms:

  • Jaundice
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain

Precautions:

  • Get yourself vaccinated 
  • Drink clean water
  • Wash your hands with soap - if this is not possible, use a sanitiser - before eating

Do you or anyone in your family have this disease? Please do a survey and help others

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