Immunity debt is when people are not exposed to bacterial and viral infections earlier. Children who didn’t attend school for nearly two years, and are now falling ill in almost a cyclical manner due to immnity debt, will be exposed to possible water and vector-borne diseases.
They can be kept safe by preventing them from coming in contact with contaminated water and ensuring the food they consume doesn’t have this water.
Dr Priya Shivalli, honorary secretary, Indian Academy of Pediatrics, Bangalore Chapter, expects infections among children to increase this week. She said the impact of flooding usually starts about five days after the incident.
Talking from experiences of pediatricians in the city, she said respiratory infections continued to prevail among children less than five years. In a month’s time, the same child could have four episodes of the same infection, she added.
Dr Gunda Srinivas, consultant- pediatric emergency & pediatrics, Aster RV Hospital, said, “Waterborne infections are expected in kids this season, especially after rain when contamination is highly anticipated. These infections start with vomiting, loose stools, stomach pain and fever. I
f not attended to and given adequate hydration, things can get complicated to cause dehydration and be life threatening too. There is a slight increase in number of kids with such symptoms in the current season. It can mostly be attributed to consumption of unhygienic food prepared using unfiltered water, etc.
Consuming unwashed vegetables and fruits could also cause waterborne illnesses in kids.” He observed that lesser the age, longer the recovery time. Children with immunodeficiency disorders are more prone to waterborne illnesses.
Dr Abhishek S Aradhya, NICU director, Ovum Woman and Child Specialty Hospital, said vector and waterborne diseases among children are expected in a week, considering that virus and bacteria will multiply now.
He said children are expected to have actue gasterointestinal issues, and while there is no vaccination for these, they should consume food and water that is not mixed with flood water, cover themselves well against mosquitoes and for a few days, avoid playing on playgrounds with puddles of contaminated water.
Dr Ambanna Gowda, senior consultant physician and diabetologist, SPARSH Hospital, said in terms of long-term impact, post-traumatic disorder like anxiety, poor sleep quality and malnutrition are likely. “If someone has experienced distress or health issues due to flooding, it can cause emotional trauma and anxiety,” he said.
Doctors recommend government intervention in implementing health policies, and conducting surveys in case of increase in dengue and malaria as well as ensuring interventions to deal with mental health issues that arise out of this disaster.