Kerala floods leave more than 300 dead and many more stranded

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine No Comments

Vigilance and precautions are the need of the hour to prevent the aftermath of illnesses that follow floods

New Delhi, 20 August 2018: With over 250% more rain than normal between 8th and 15th August 2018, the state of Kerala is battling the worst floods in its history. More than 300 people have lost their lives and many more have been left stranded. Across the state, relief teams are running against time to ensure food and medicines reach those in need. Many have pitched in to the rescue efforts through their presence well as monetary contributions.

Flood waters not only take a toll on human life, but also cause an aftermath of illnesses. The health effects of floods are both immediate and long term. One of the most pertinent problems of flooding is the water-borne and vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, leptospirosis, dysentery, typhoid, and cholera. While the government and health care agencies do put in place certain mechanisms to tackle these, precautions are of utmost importance.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “The outbreak of infectious diseases and their transmission can occur within days, weeks or even months after the onset of floods. One of the most common health risks during and after flooding is the contamination of water sources. Standing water becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes, thus increasing the chances of vector-borne diseases. One infection that can take on an epidemic form after flooding is leptospirosis. Flooding helps in facilitating the spread of the organism due to increase in the number of rodents. These shed large amounts of leptospires in their urine which mixes with the flooded water. Apart from this, receding waters also bring back mosquitoes with them. Some other devastating after effects of floods include drowning, injuries due to falling inside manholes, and electrocution from submerged and fallen power lines or live wires which can electrically charge the standing water.”

While developed countries have adequate coping mechanisms in place, the most affected are the low-income countries. Some reasons for this include large population, existing health conditions, and lack of proper health infrastructure.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Vice President of CMAAO, said, “It is important to have certain coping mechanisms in place, both at the governmental and individual levels, to prevent diseases from spreading. At the governmental level, it is important to improve the level of primary health care delivery.  Healthcare workers should be trained appropriately such that they can identify and assess any risk factors and take immediate action. There should also be a system in place to educate people on hygiene and hand washing techniques. The government should also ensure that adequate quantity of safe water, good sanitation facilities, and appropriate shelters are provided to the victims to keep them safe from diseases.”

Some tips from HCFI to cope during floods at an individual level.

  • Do not walk or wade through floodwater because it contains sewage and debris. This is more so in the case of those who are vulnerable to infections such as people living with diabetes, children, pregnant women, and the elderly.
  • Do not expose broken skin or any wounds to floodwater to avoid the risk of getting infected. Additionally, clean these wounds with clean water and get a dressing done.
  • It is imperative to wash your hands with soap and water if you happen to come into contact with damaged material, floodwater or mud; or after going to the washroom. Do not touch food with dirty hands.
  • Dispose of any food material, medicines and other edibles if they have come into contact with floodwater. Using these can make you susceptible to infections.
  • If you have tinned food, make sure to wash the tin and sanitize it in a bleach solution. Consume the contents at the earliest.
  • Check with the local authority about any possible contamination of local water supply. Make sure to boil water before consumption.
  • Use mosquito repellants and nets abundantly to avoid catching vector-borne diseases. Do not throw garbage on the street as this can attract rodents.

Kerala battles its worst floods in 100 years: Long-term health effects of floods

Health Care No Comments

Continuing with our discussion on the health effects of floods, today we talk about the long-term health effects of flood.

It’s not just the sick, who are vulnerable to these health effects, the healthy people too are at risk of adverse health effects due to polluted air, contaminated water, infected wounds, mold, infectious diseases, carbon monoxide and mosquitoes.

Mold in the walls of homes damaged by water is common and is a potential irritant to people who suffer from asthma or COPD or respiratory problems. Exposure to molds causes allergic reactions leading to nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing.

Carbon monoxide poisoning may occur due to the use of portable devices like electric generators and cooking stoves.

Destruction or damage to the health care infrastructure or hospital buildings. This is of concern, especially for patients who have chronic illnesses like heart disease or respiratory illness or those who are undergoing dialysis because of lack of required medications/equipments and loss of access to essential care, including continuing health care.

Mental health problems: Depression, increase in suicidal thoughts, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Stagnant water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, with increased chances of outbreaks of chikungunya, dengue, Zika, leptospirosis

Contaminated water due to damage to water and sanitation infrastructure is a public health hazard leading to shortage of drinking water

Population displacement

Disruption of food supplies

Destruction of homes

Dr KK Aggarwal

Padma Shri Awardee

Vice President CMAAO

Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications

President Heart Care Foundation of India

Immediate Past National President IMA

FSSAI to limit trans fats in edible vegetable oils and fats to 2% by weight in a phased manner

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine No Comments

The decision comes after HCFI’s request for banning use of trans fats in restaurants and grocery items

New Delhi, 19 August 2018: In a much-welcome move, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is in the process of notifying the limits of trans-fat in all edible vegetable oil and fats to be not more than 2% by weight in a phased manner by 2022.

The decision comes in view of a request by HCFI to the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Hon’ble Minister of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and Hon’ble Minister of Ministry of Law and Justice on 21st June 2018.

As part of the letter, HCFI had appealed for immediate steps and necessary directions for banning the use of trans fat in all restaurants, cafes, hotels, and grocery items in India. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned artificial trans fats from American restaurants and grocery store food items. The latter gave time till 18th June 2018 to all companies in the USA for eliminating trans fats.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Trans fats have been a staple in the tastiest junk foods for more than 100 years. They are chemically made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated oil is also trans-fat). Trans fats increases the shelf life of packaged foods, and restaurants like to use it as oil for deep frying because it doesn’t need to be changed as often as other oils. The FDA’s move should be replicated in India as well. The health effects of trans fats are not unknown but consumption continues. Trans fats boost LDL as much as saturated fatsandalsolower protective HDL. Apart from this, they rev up inflammation and increase the tendency for blood clots to form inside blood vessels.”

Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils. This changes the chemical structure of the oil, turning it from a liquid into a solid. The process involves high pressure, hydrogen gas, and a metal catalyst – and the end-product is highly unsuitable for human consumption.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Vice President of CMAAO, said, “Foods rich in trans fats tend to be high in added sugar and calories. Over time, these can pave way for weight gain and even Type 2 diabetes, not to mention heart problems. It is time to take a strong stand against their use in eateries outside considering the fact that many people eat in restaurants regularly in today’s day and age.”

Some tips from HCFI

  • Choose foods lower in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol.
  • Replace saturated and trans fats in their diet with mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Some sources of monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include soybean, corn, sunflower oils, and foods like nuts.
  • Choose vegetable oils (except coconut and palm kernel oils) and soft margarines (liquid, tub, or spray) more often because the combined amount of saturated and trans fats is lower than the amount in solid shortenings, hard margarines, and animal fats, including butter.
  • Most fish are lower in saturated fat than meat. Some fish, such as mackerel, sardines and salmon, contain omega–3 fatty acids that are being studied to determine if they offer protection against heart disease.
  • Limit foods high in cholesterol such as liver and other organ meats, egg yolks and full–fat dairy products, like whole milk.
  • Choose foods low in saturated fat such as fat free or 1% dairy products, lean meats, fish, skinless poultry, whole grain foods and fruit and vegetables.

A relevant portion of the letter dated 1 August 2018:

Please refer to grievance dated 26.06.2018 with registration no. PMOPG/D/2018/0229751 regarding banning use of trans-fat in all restaurants, cafes, hotels, grocery items in India. In this regard, it is informed that the Food Safety and Standards (Food products Standard and Product Additives) Regulations, 2011, prescribe that the trans-fat shall not be more than 5% by weight in some types of vegetable fats. Further, the FSSAI is in the process of notifying the limits of trans-fat in all edible vegetable oils and fats to be not more than 2% by weight in a phased manner by 2022. The other concerns regarding creating awareness among the public have been noted.”

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