‘High risk of Cholera, Typhoid, Hepatitis among children;’ SMC to act against shops selling contaminated books
Experts have warned against buying or using flood affected books as the same carry high risk of infections particularly among children and other vulnerable groups.
The recent floods have soaked lakhs of books in Kashmir both at residential as well as commercial places. Traders at many places are trying to make a quick buck by offering the books to people especially students at discounted rates.
“This is a dangerous situation as the books soaked in flood waters carry number of viral, bacterial, fungal and other disease-causing agents,” said Dr Ishtiyaq Ahmad, senior resident anesthesiology and critical care. “A large number of animals like cats, rats, dogs, cattle, etc. have died in these waters and by using these books a person can easily be inflicted by viral diseases like Lepto Spirosis that happens due to decaying feco-oral matter of rats and cats in water.”
The experts opined that even sun-drying can’t make these books infection-free. “After drying, the infectious silt or mud remains in crevices or spaces inside the book and on drying that dust can be equally harmful,” said Dr Ishtiyaq. “These books can become a major cause for spreading diseases like Cholera, Typhoid, Para Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis E and other deadly diseases. And the most vulnerable groups are children and patients with weaker immunity.”
According to experts these books are dangerous next only or equal to consuming flood affected eatables.
“While reading books, we often moisten our fingers to flip over pages. That way these disease-causing agents can directly go into our body,” said Dr Ishtiyaq. “Similarly small children out of curiosity can pick up such books and later suck their hands. And all are at risk.”
World over there are strict guidelines against using such books. “Even World Health Organization in its guidelines clearly asks people to discard any cardboard that has come into the contact with flood waters,” said Dr Iqbal, senior resident community medicine, SKIMS. “Similarly, America’s Centre for disease control and prevention strictly calls for removal and discarding of flood affected books as they cannot be cleaned and disinfected.”
The doctors have asked the government to inform general public about the dangers posed by using such books. They have called for imposing an outright ban on selling such stationary items that have the potential to trigger epidemics among people in both flood affected as well as non-affected areas.
Health Officer of Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Dr Rubeena Shaheen, agreed that these books are a major health hazard. “We are informing people about dangers of using such items. Only the valuable document or some rare books should be salvaged and preserved but that too has to be done according to a set procedure,” said Dr Rubeena. “We have asked schools, book shops and parents to discard the flood contaminated books as soon as possible.”
She said that SMC is soon going to crack down on the shops selling such books to ignorant people. “After floods our primary concern was destroying the food items and now we are going to take action against such people who are selling these disease ridden books,” said Dr Rubeena.
According to rough estimates, books worth Rs 150 crores were damaged in over 200 bookshops in Srinagar alone and many of them are trying to minimize their losses by offering soaked or sun dried books to readers at heavy discounts. Similarly lakhs of book sets of students and private libraries were also inundated during these floods.