Cholera cases put migrant labourers back in focus

Comprehensive scheme mooted following outbreak in Wayanad

An expert team of doctors from Government Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode, has suggested a comprehensive scheme to track the health parameters of migrant labourers in the State in the wake of the recent cholera outbreak among the population in Wayanad district.

Eighteen people, most of them hailing from Assam and West Bengal, were admitted to hospitals with cholera symptoms this month. They had been hired by a private tea plantation. Four of the patients tested positive for cholera later.

Pointing out that this could be one of the severe outbreaks of the water-borne disease among the migrant population in the State in recent times, Health Department sources said there could be under-reported or unreported cases endemic among them.

Bad conditions

A team of doctors from the Regional Prevention of Endemic and Infectious Diseases (RPEID) attached to the Community Medicine Department of the medical college hospital found that the dwellings of the labourers at Mooppanad were poorly maintained.

Sanitation facilities were inadequate and the drainage system was in a poor condition. There was severe water scarcity and the labourers were drinking unboiled water. The residential places of the contacts of the infected at Kalpetta were found to be overcrowded. There was no separate kitchen and waste was found to be kept inside rooms.

The team led by V. Bindu, Associate Professor, Community Medicine, visited Kalpetta and Meppadi on May 18 to take stock of the situation. The RPEID cells investigate outbreaks of communicable diseases and suggest control measures to the department. They also collect, assemble, and report surveillance data on communicable diseases.

Difficult job

One of the team members told The Hindu on Monday that it was difficult to track the movements of these labourers as they were not staying at a place for long. This could lead to at least some of them or their family members being carriers of the disease who might spread it in other areas.

Children among the group might also would not have been immunised. The health staff at the local level were also found to be unable to communicate with these people owing to their lack of understanding of Bengali or Assamese. Symptoms were not being recorded properly, affecting the diagnosis on time.

In Kozhikode, the district administration had launched Garima, a scheme to grade the residential places of migrant labourers based on the facilities provided there. Many dwellings were closed down as they were found to have failed the test. The government could extend the scheme across the State, added the RPEID member.

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