Are Mass Gathering Events Hot Spot for Spreading of Infectious Diseases: The Kumbh Mela Experience

Kanaujiya, Ashok Kumar; Tiwari, Vineet

Abstract

Kumbh Mela, the largest spiritual mass gathering, witnessed around 240 million pilgrims in 2019 at Prayagraj. The huge gathering poses challenges of different kinds including easy transmission of infectious diseases. This research aims to identify the types and causes of infectious diseases and discuss the government's efforts for health and sanitation management. Secondary data from various reports have been used to support the study for which related websites, Prayagraj Mela Authority reports, peer-reviewed articles, and related literatures were studied. Qualitative and quantitative analyses have been done to find trends and have comparative studies among various Kumbh and Ardh Kumbh Melas. The study finds that there is spread of infectious diseases like Acute respiratory infections, fever, skin disease, dysentery etc. during the Kumbh Mela due to the huge population, restricted space, pressure on sanitation infrastructure, unhygienic living conditions, solid and liquid wastes generated during Mela, and pilgrims' social and religious psychologies. The number of pilgrims of the occasion has increased heavily with time. Based on the anticipated number various efforts and initiatives of the government and management such as advance disease surveillance system, HEAT map, ensuring safe drinking water, better sanitation and healthcare facilities has increased over the years to reduce its impact. Mass gathering events always draw attention to health hazards and in fact the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic forced to think about the organization of mass gathering events in future. The mega tent city that accommodates nearly millions of pilgrims in the river bed is significant not only for India but also for mass gathering research at the international level to draw policy and provide the opportunity to generate the evidence and document base for risk prevention, mitigation, and management planning of infectious diseases and disasters.


Keyword(s)

Bathing, Ganga river, Pilgrimage, Public health, Religion


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