Mass panic at labour camp in Goregaon as twenty five men suffer from 'retracting' genitalia
Several labourers living in a work camp near Aarey Colony in Goregaon have been spending sleepless nights since Saturday after they found that the size of their genitals have been gradually reducing and getting inside the lower abdomen (Koro: see box). The panicked sit in a bathtub and family members pour water on them to cure them.
The relatives of the afflicted told MiD DAY that the workers have been suffering from Koro since Saturday. Govind Rai, a recent victim of Koro, said, "On Sunday night I experienced extreme heat emanating from my body.
An aggrieved labourer enters the site for treatment
My genitalia were retracting and I was really worried. Later, on my friends' advice, I jumped into a tub of iced water and sat there for three to four hours."
Rai added that the treatment worked and he was cured of the deadly disease by yesterday evening. Further investigations revealed that at least 25 people were suffering from the same ailment.
"We all are from Orissa, Bengal, Kolkata, but I have noticed that men from Orissa and Bengal are suffering the most," said Rai.
The construction site manager said, "We called the doctor last night but he, too, was unaware of the reason for the ailment."
One of the victims of Koro said, "I am shivering because of the cold and the heat that is emanating from my body. But, I will sit in the water only. I am unaware why I am suffering from this disorder. My relatives in Assam guided me on the disease and now I am feeling better."
Police officials from Aarey Colony came to the labour camp around 1 am and started questioning the labourers. They also took down the statements of the victims and other camp workers.
Inspector Girish Ahvankar said, "We will record the statement of the victims. However, this is not a police case."
Initial enquiry ruled out infection to be the cause of the epidemic, as no chemicals or detergents were present at the site.
A representative from the PR agency that looks after the publicity of the builder for whom the labourers work, said, "We were not aware that the workers were suffering from such an ailment.
A doctor was sent and we will look into the matter."
What is Koro?
Koro is a mental condition in which men become obsessed with their genitalia, believing it to be afflicted by shrinkage. Koro is a Malay-Indonesian term meaning turtle's head."
Some believe that it is a culture-specific syndrome. Many a time, Koro or Shook is equated with the Indian dhat syndrome in which men believe that they are passing semen through their urine.
A koro epidemic struck Singapore in October 1967 for about 10 days. Newspapers initially reported that some people developed koro after eating the meat of pigs inoculated with anti-swine-flu vaccine.
Rumours relating eating pork and Koro spread after a further report of an inoculated pig dying from penile retraction. The cases reported amounted to 97 at a single hospital unit within one day.
A small-scale epidemic of genital shrinking was reported in West African nations.
Victims in the African outbreaks often interpreted the experience as genital theft, accusing some one with whom they had contact of 'stealing' the organ and the spiritual essence.