In the news: Cholera alert in Kerala, low breastfeeding rates across the world and more

A wrap of health news over the past week.

Cholera alert in Kerala

Kerala’s health department issued an alert against cholera last week after three cases of the bacterial disease were reported in the state, one of which resulted in death.

On July 24, an 18-year-old Biswajit Das, a migrant worker from West Bengal, died of severe dehydration after contracting cholera in Pathanamthitta district. The other two cases were confirmed in a labour camp in Kozhikode district. Three more suspected cholera cases have been identified, the Times of India reported.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the Vibrio cholerae bacteria. If left untreated, it can rapidly plead to severe dehydration and death.

Dr L Saritha, Director of Health Services at the state health department told the Times of India that the state has reported more nearly three lakh diarrhoea cases this year, four of which resulted in death.

Kerala is also seeing an outbreak of other monsoon diseases such as dengue and H1N1 this year.

Couple forced to sell newborn to pay for delivery costs in Odisha

In Kendrapada district of Odisha, a couple was allegedly forced to sell their newborn daughter to foot the expenses of delivering the child at a private facility, the New Indian Express reported.

Girakar Moharana and his wife Gitaranjali Moharana, residents of a village in Odisha’s Kendrapada district, were expecting their third child and wanted to deliver her at a district hospital, the Press Trust of India reported.

According to the First Information Report lodged by the couple, they were allegedly advised by the village Accredited Social Health Activist or ASHA worker to go to a private hospital.

ASHA workers are community health activists selected from a village, under the National Rural Health Mission, to guide its residents through the public health system. Among other things, their work includes encouraging pregnant women to go for check ups and bring them to the hospital for delivery.

Gitanjali Moharana delivered a girl child in the private nursing home on August 3. The hospital then allegedly asked the couple to pay up Rs 7,500.

As Nirakar Moharana did not have the money, the ASHA worker and an employee of the nursing home allegedly suggested that they sell their baby to a childless couple and said the buyers would foot the bill on their behalf.

The couple then approached the police, who arrested four people including the ASHA worker and nursing home employee on Saturday.

One lakh children in India die of diseases preventable by breastfeeding

Nearly one lakh children die every year in India of diseases such as diarhoea and pnemnonia that can be prevented through breastfeeding, according to a report released by the United Nations. The report said that diseases and mortality associated with inadequate breastfeeding is estimated to drain the Indian economy by $14 billion.

The United Nations Children’s Fund and World Health Organisation, in collaboration with the Global Breastfeeding Collective – an initiative to increase global breastfeeding rates – released the Global Breastfeeding Scorecard at the start of the World Breastfeeding Week, observed from August 1 to August 7. The report evaluated 194 countries, including India.

India reported an exclusive breastfeeding rate of 55% for children below the age of six months.

The WHO recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed their child (with no other food or drink) up to six months of age, followed by continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary food up till the turn two.

The report said that breastfeeding helps prevent diseases such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, which are the leading causes of child mortality.

Globally, investment in breastfeeding is far too low, the report observed. An annual investment of just $4.7 per newborn is required to achieve a 50% global rate of exclusive breastfeeding among children under six months by 2025, the report said.

In Tamil Nadu, a Siddha practitioner held for fatal abortion

A practitioner of Siddha, a traditional medicine system, was arrested near Kadambur town in Tamil Nadu on August 3 after a pregnant woman died allegedly after consuming medicines prescribed by her to abort the pregnancy, the Times of India reported.

Siddha is one of the five alternative medicines, including Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani and Homeopathy that is promoted by the government.

The accused, M Thailammal, based in Thondur village near Kadambur was arrested for murdering 35-year old K Selvi, who lived in the same village. After taking the medication allegedly given by Thailammal, she got sick and died under mysterious circumstances in May 2016.

After her death, the Kadambur police filed a case of unnatural death and sent her body to the government hospital in Sathyamangalam city in Erode district for a postmortem.

The results of the viscera test, usually done in cases of suspected poisoning, showed that Selvi had consumed some medicines at the time of her death, said the report. The police said Selvi’s husband told them that she had taken some Siddha medicines at the time to terminate her pregnancy.

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