While Mumbai has been witnessing heavy rainfall that has eased the city's water woes, a report on the State of Health of Mumbai 2017 by Praja Foundation revealed that there has been a resurgence of cholera cases in the last two years. According to the white paper report released by the NGO, the number of cholera cases was 31 between 2014-15, as reported by government institutions. However, the number drastically went up to 207 in 2015-16. In the last one year, 109 cholera cases were reported in the city.
Cholera is a water-borne disease caused by the bacterium known as vibrio cholerae. The water-borne disease is highly contagious and causes severe and watery diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration, apart from high fever and cramping. The highest number of deaths caused by cholera was eight in 2015-16, while the disease claimed five lives in 2015-16. In fact, in 2016, when seven cases of cholera were reported from the slums of Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corportation (BMC) had conducted a house-to-house survey, distributing chlorine and ORS tablets among residents. Dr Mini Khetrapal, BMC's epidemiologist, remained unavailable for comment. Doctors say leakages in sewage and consumption of unfiltered water were the leading causes of cholera.
Speaking to THE WEEK, Dr Pradip Shah, senior physician at Fortis hospital, Mumbai, said, "We have been seeing patients with symptoms like loose motions and vomiting and it could mimic the symptoms of cholera, but a patient who we suspected had the disease tested negative. A cholera patient passes loose stools 20 to 30 times a day that is watery and whitish in colour. The patient needs a lot of fluids to prevent dehydration and has to be kept in isolation in order to prevent the disease from rapidly spreading."
However, requesting anonymity, a senior doctor said, "Cholera cases are more common in patients from places other than Mumbai. There are a few cholera patients undergoing treatment in Kasturba hospital, where they have to be kept in isolation. However, the BMC is just not admitting that patients are testing positive for cholera. In Mumbai, there are patients who have been suffering from prolonged and severe diarrhoea, but the culture test for cholera comes back negative and the symptoms start subsiding after 10 days." Dr Shah adds cholera is more common in patients from outside the city and could affect more people if a well in a village gets contaminated with the vibrio cholerae bacterium.
Cholera is not the only water-borne disease that is affecting patients. Other than this, typhoid, a more common water-borne disease is also affecting patients. "We have seen several patients testing positive for typhoid, a more common water-borne disease in Mumbai during the monsoon," added Dr Shah. According to the Praja Foundation report, there were 4,413 cases of typhoid in governmental institutions between 2016-17. As compared to this, 5330 cases of typhoid were reported between 2015-16. Milind Mhaske from the foundation says there has been no decline in the number of typhoid cases in Mumbai.
Dr Shah urges people to follow strict hand hygiene and regularly wash their hands to prevent suffering from cholera. "During monsoon, avoid eating uncovered food as flies are the most common causes of further contaminating food. It is also common for an infected person to spread typhoid if he or she is cooking food and doesn't wash their hands regularly," he said.