Measles outbreak: Families trust home remedies, doctors say precious time lost


As one-year-old Rayesh Gupta, hooked to a ventilator, fights measles at Kasturba Gandhi Hospital’s ICU ward, his father Rajendra, sitting outside, rues his family’s decision to trust home remedies to treat him initially.0

With Mumbai witnessing an outbreak of measles, experts have pointed out that the drastic spread of the virus and the deteriorating condition among children have a lot to do with the belief in many families that home remedies are enough to treat them.

Rayesh’s family had fanned him with neem leaves after red rashes emerged on his body the first time. A Satwik diet and constant cleaning of the house, however, did not subdue his symptoms. It was only when

Rayesh stopped communicating that his family took him to the hospital.

Rayesh’s family is not alone in this. According to health experts, the emphasis of some parents on home remedies and vaccine hesitancy have compounded the measles problem that Mumbai is facing.

Many ASHA workers and local health volunteers said they face difficulties in convincing slum dwellers from hotspots like M East (Govandi), M West (Chembur) and H East (Bandra East) to take Vitamin A tablets or get vaccinated.

“After vaccination, some children develop mild fever and pain at the injected areas, so they don’t let them get vaccinated. Instead, they claim that neem kadha is safer to fight measles,” said Shreya Salvi, a health volunteer at Govandi.

Yusuf Sheikh, a relative of Mansoon Ansari from Govandi’s Baiganwadi, whose six-month-old daughter Ashifa is admitted in the hospital’s ICU, said they have hung neem leaves at the doors to kill the virus. “Some even make paste of neem and apply it on the skin of the infected children,” said Sheikh.

According to doctors, such home remedies delay treatment, which can lead to complications like diarrhea, pneumonia and swelling of the brain.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr Chandrakant Pawar, medical superintendent of the hospital, said that delay in hospitalisation is one of the contributing factors behind the severity of the infection.

“Measles has its own complications that vary from one patient to another. Patients

with low immunity develop severe pneumonia faster. So, the more they delay treatment, the chances of developing

complications increases,” he added.

To deal with hesitancy related to treatment and vaccination, the BMC has decided to rope in doctors with knowledge of Urdu from the World Health Organisation to spread awareness about vaccination in areas like Govandi, which has a high Urdu-speaking population.

“If home remedies don’t help, local residents often reach out to local pandits and maulana. So, we are also approaching them to convince the kin to take the children to hospitals,” said a health officer from BMC.

The BMC has also reactivated its ward war rooms, which would be responsible for arranging ambulances and beds for the infected children.

As of Wednesday, 61 patients were undergoing treatment at the hospital, of whom five were on oxygen support. The hospital has added another ward with 48 beds to treat the patients.

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