The tribal padas in Aarey Colony have witnessed an increasing number of skin infection cases, especially among children, who are developing white patches all over their body. The cases have increased in the last few weeks, with Aarey Hospital recording 10-12 patients with tinea versicolor infection per day.
Tinea versicolor is a fungal infection which leads to itching and white patches of skin. In Vanichapada, Amul Sharma (12) developed white patches on his neck a month ago. “I went to the doctor after pus started oozing out. But the patches still remain,” he said. His friend Rahul Jhop (13) has tiny white spots. “I have been seeing them for the last two days,” he said.
A few huts away, two-year-old Kartik Gamare’s mother, Deepali, said he started developing the white patches three months ago. The patches have now spread to his entire body. “The doctor in Aarey Hospital gave him drops. It didn’t help. We went to another hospital in Goregaon last week. Now, the doctor has prescribed tablets,” she said. She added that the water supply from the BMC smells on some days.
In Vanichapada alone, 14 children have tinea versicolor. A kindergarten run by NGO Mumbai Smiles has 25 children aged less than three years. At least three have white patches fast spreading on the limbs and face. Teacher Vaishali Bagel said many children do not bathe every day, which is a common cause of fungal infection. “But the numbers are high this time,” she said.
Dr Ravindra Patel, posted in Aarey Hospital which caters to 27 tribal padas, said that of 50-60 patients visiting out-patient departments every day, most have tinea versicolor. “It is common during monsoons. Humid weather causes skin infection. But the fungal infection can also transmit through bread or pav infected with fungus or water used for bathing,” he said.
Aarey Hospital has been prescribing benzyl benzoate lotion and fluconazole tablets for two-three months as treatment. “But severe cases have to be referred to BMC hospital,” Patel said.
He added that either chlorine tablets must be mixed in water or water must be filtered before use. Locals in Aarey Colony said they filter water using a cloth.
“In the last few days, I am noticing white patches on the skin of several students. All of them bathe every day, so the unhygienic conditions cannot be solely responsible for the infection. There may be some issue with the water,” said teacher Vinayak Walvikar. In Class II of the BMC school, several children complained of itching. Seven-year-old Siddhi Gamare has had big white spots on her face for a few weeks now.
Students from areas such as Mayur Nagar, Adarsh Nagar, Kharagpada and Khambachapada have also been undergoing similar issues.
Right to Information data collected by NGO Praja Foundation shows that of 8,080 children surveyed in the entire P-South ward in 2018-19, 265 had skin ailments. Locals said that while BMC health officers conducted health check-ups in schools, they only made records of ailments and did not prescribe any treatment.
Dr Priyanka Kambli, civic health officer who visited the school last month for a health check-up, said, “Whatever cases of skin infection we get, we refer them to the nearest BMC dispensary. Since parents are not present in school with children during health check-up, we can’t prescribe medicines.”
One of the school teachers said doctors in Aarey Hospital leave by 1-2 pm. “By the time school gets over, there is no doctor available for consultation,” the teacher said.
Mukesh Vikaholiya, whose mother and uncle both have white patches, said they have to wait for hours for a doctor to turn up in Aarey Hospital. “They only sit for a few hours. It is not possible to travel longer distances to hospitals outside Aarey,” he said.
Dr Charulata Jakhia, the health officer in P-South ward, did not respond to calls or messages.