Respiratory ailments double, cost 23 lives daily
In 2012, the statistical handbook released by the state government said that an average of 23 people die every day due to respiratory diseases in the capital. The number of cases, data showed, had doubled in the past four years. Doctors say worsening air quality, a major trigger for respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and infections, may cause more fatalities in the coming years if appropriate measures are not taken.
“The response to medicines has changed. Inhalers and nebulisers are proving ineffective in controlling symptoms of respiratory ailments. The number of emergency admissions, particularly among the elderly, has gone up too,” says Dr Arup Basu, vice-chairman of pulmonology department at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. He says illnesses such as chronic bronchitis, cough and aggravation of asthma symptoms seen during change of season –onset of winter and summer season– are now observed throughout the year.
“Usually, these infections go away in a week or two but due to environmental changes we are seeing a lot of patients complaining about these symptoms continuing for over
amonth despite medications ,” adds the doctor. Dr A B Dey, professor and head of geriatric medicine at AIIMS, says exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or pneumonia infections are reported throughout the year.
It’s not just respiratory diseases, but the decline in air quality is causing increasein the incidence of other health ailments, including rheumatic arthritis, heart failure and depression.
“Incidence of autoimmune diseases, for example rheumatoid arthritis, has increased significantly which cannot be explained merely by citing genetic changes. The role of ambient air pollution, which is a known cause of aberration in the immune status of genetically predisposed individuals and even healthy ones, is being investigated,” says Dr Uma Kumar, head of clinical immunology and rheumatology department at AIIMS. She says that more than 200 patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis visit the hospital every week.