Chinese bhel to be blamed for hepatitis?

Jun 29, 2011, 06:23 IST | Rinkita Gurav and Chetna Yerunkar

With six pregnant women succumbing to Hepatitis E in past 2 months, BMC fears the street snack may be at fault; claims malaria is under control, but docs say not really

With six pregnant women succumbing to Hepatitis E in past 2 months, BMC fears the street snack may be at fault; claims malaria is under control, but docs say not really

Monsoon, street food and disease share a notorious association in this city.

And this year is no exception, except in the manner a particular roadside snack has attacked the immunity of those with a palate for tangy munchies, and garnered the attention of health officials.
 
The BMC has cited Chinese bhel as the primary reason behind the rise in Hepatitis E and other gastric diseases in the city.

In a Health Committee meeting yesterday, Corporator Bablu Aziz demanded from the corporation an explanation for the death of six pregnant women who succumbed to Hepatitis E over the last two months.
 
"It is a loss of two lives, the mother and the baby. The disease merits serious concern as there is no vaccination for it," said Aziz.

The women were admitted in private hospitals. Civic hospitals have also admitted a few pregnant women who may have contracted the virus.

Health Committee Chairperson Rajul Patel said, "There has been a grater rise in cases of gastric diseases in the city as compared to malaria."

She added that the main reason behind the rise in Hepatitis E is junk food, in particular, the so-called Chinese variant of bhel puri.

"The Chinese bhel stalls have sprung up like anything in the city. Indulging their craving for spicy food at these unhygienic stalls is affecting the women's health," said Patel.

Dr Sanjay Oak, dean of KEM hospital, seemed to concur. "One of the main reasons behind the spurt in the disease is the Chinese stalls that have sprung up in every street corner.

Contaminated water and other roadside food may also cause it." He added that women become less immune when they are pregnant. "They should avoid eating out. Boiled water and properly cooked vegetables can help prevent it."

The BMC has been constantly trying to get down the number of illegal eating stalls in the city. This month itself, 43 Chinese stalls, 246 vada pav stalls and 43 others including juice stalls, were made to shut down.

Said Patel of impending closures and drives, "The health department will inspect stalls in the city and check their licences, and the encroachment department will penalise the illegal ones."

Malaria rising?
In the last two consecutive days, two persons were reported dead due to the standard monsoon scourge of malaria.

In the general body meeting of the BMC, Congress Corporator Rajhans Singh alleged that figures released by the civic body cititng malaria has decreased did not give an accurate picture.
 
"The civic authority should not only take cognisance of the number of patients coming to its hospitals but also those going to private facilities to assess the actual rate," said Singh. "The figures seem to be tampered and the actual ones are not given."

His criticism comes as the civic body maintains that the instance of malaria has ebbed in the city.

Additional Municipal Commissioner (Health) Manisha Mhaiskar said, "As compared to last year when the positivity rate for malaria was over 5, this year it is below 2.

It seems like the disease is under control. We have the standard figures of every year and we compared this year's figure to last year's."

Docs disagree
While civic officials croon the official tune, private doctors agree with Singh's claim.

"Some 15-20 patients every week suffer from viral fever. Of these, 10 are detected with malaria," said Dr Sandeep Kotwal of Kalajot hospital, Fort.

Doctor at Pophale Nursing Home in Colaba, Suhas Pophale said, "Malaria is the most dangerous disease during monsoon and it is spreading like fire. With the increasing number of patients every day, I don't think the government is doing their job properly."

Said Dr Parmeet Sodhi, who runs a private clinic in Versova, "The number of malaria patients in western suburbs is considerably high. Around 30 patients have been diagnosed with malaria at my clinic over the last month or so." 
 
Numbers
So far this year, the city witnessed a large number of victims of disease:
Malaria: 2590, (3 dead)
Dengue: 13,
Typhoid: 162
Jaundice: 524, (5 dead)
Leptospirosis: 10
Gastro: 2536, (1 dead)

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