Non-local labourers, beggars carriers of infection, need screening: Experts

Shafaq Shah

Srinagar: Tens of thousands of non-local labourers visiting the Valley every year for work must be screened for a host of infectious diseases they bring along with them, health experts have suggested.
Dr Abdul Majeed, an additional professor of community medicine at SKIMS, Soura, said that non-local labourers shall be screened for diseases at entry points such as airports, railway stations and highways and sent back if found positive for any infectious disease.
He said a comprehensive public health management policy was the need of the hour as Kashmir is a destination both for tourists and labourers.
“Non-locals beggars are also a source of infection here. They beg at public places, making people vulnerable to various diseases,” he said.
Health Minister Chowdhary Lal Singh said that although it was impossible to screen every visitor, an “alternative way has to be found out”.
“It is an important issue. I will definitely discuss the matter with health officials and look at how we can effectively screen these non-locals to prevent spread of infectious diseases,” he said.
A survey conducted by the Health and Medical Educational department from April 2014 to February 2015 says that out of 33 cases of leprosy in the Valley, 10 were non-locals.
Kashmir has achieved leprosy elimination according to World Health Organisation criteria—one infected person per 10,000 people. However, about 200,000 leprosy cases are registered worldwide every year, 60% of them in India alone.
States like Bihar, the major source of labourers to Kashmir, have not achieved elimination stage.
Dr Saleem Khan, head department of community medicine at the Government Medical College Srinagar, said many beggars who come to the Valley from various states are suspected leprosy cases and must be screened.
Also, most of the HIV positive cases detected during screening of blood at various hospitals in the valley are non-locals, particularly paramilitary troopers.