Foot Alert - Islamic Prayer Centres

Tuesday, 01 March 2011 17:27 Cassandra Culture-Practices - Rites

It was recently revealed that Muslims have been regularly using Alma Road Neighbourhood House for Friday prayers. Residents are justifiably worried, as it is well documented that Friday prayers regularly precede violence against infidels.

But this isn’t the only problem. Muslims must perform ablutions - including foot washing - before prayers. This could present a public health concern if they are washing in shared facilities (they are using the disabled washroom!) and then walking barefoot to the main room. Of course, the Muslims would immediately answer: "provide us with separate washrooms", to which the answer should be "why waste ratepayers’ money?" But given the lunacy of some councillors, they might well reply "yes Masters, anything you want."

So how great is the danger? Certainly Arab countries recognize the risk:

An awareness campaign on athlete’s foot was backed by both the Ministry of Health UAE and the Islamic Affairs & Charitable Activities.
The first phase saw posters that highlight the condition… placed in more than 500 mosque ablution rooms across Dubai. The next phase is aimed at the Muslims who use the prayer rooms in shopping malls across Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah.
One recent study conducted in eight mosques in South Africa found that the prevalence rate of athlete’s foot in the adult Muslim male population regularly attending mosques was 81 per cent compared with the non-Muslim males, at just 41 per cent.
Ibrahim, a prayer, observed that many of the prayers don’t dry their feet very well before walking over the carpets of the mosques. “I wish these posters reach out to a lot more people so we can all avoid infection.”

According to a survey in Europe in 1999, there were 190 million people who might have the infection. (reference)

Another article clearly highlights the risks:

A survey conducted amongst 62 of the region’s leading dermatologists has revealed a high incidence of skin fungal infections.
With the prevailing heat and humidity, low levels of awareness of skin fungal infections, and poor hygienic practices, 99% of the dermatologists surveyed stated that people living in the Gulf are more prone to catching fungal infections
Almost 40% of those surveyed stated that people in the Gulf do not practice proper foot care… that their patients do not realize that many fungal infections are contagious and can be easily spread to others or to other areas in the body.
Athlete’s Foot grows and multiplies on the surface of the skin causing a host of irritations to the feet including an itching burning sensation, blistering and cracking of the affected skin and bad odor. If not treated immediately, the condition can lead to great discomfort and in some cases disfigurement. Those carrying the infection should not ignore it as it can develop into a serious infection and can spread to other parts of the body or infect others.
Despite this, 63% of dermatologists claim that most people ignore the symptoms of skin fungal infections and do not seek medical advice until the condition is widely spread or becomes very uncomfortable.
Dermatologists advised on wearing cotton socks with closed shoes, washing feet twice a day and drying them properly, avoid walking barefoot in communal areas and wearing well-ventilated open shoes that allow the feet to breathe.

A study undertaken by the Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Cukurova, Adana, Turkey, found that, among those who perform their prayers in the mosques in the city center:

Among 461 subjects, 136 (29.5%) had tinea pedis, 23 (5.0%) had tinea unguium, and 21 (4.5%) had both infections simultaneously, with a resulting total of 180 (39.0%) cases of dermatomycosis. The causative agents by frequency were: Trichophyton rubrum (67.0%), T. mentagrophytes var. interdigitale (31.1%), and Candida albicans (1.9%). The prevalence of the foot dermatomycosis was found to be high among those who practiced ablution 3-5 times a day and did not dry their feet immediately, who used rubber shoes, and/or who shared their shoes. Pedal dermatophyte infection seems to be a major problem among the adult Muslim male population regularly attending mosques especially in 5th and 6th decades of life. (source)

So what is tinea (athelete’s foot) and how potentially serious is it?

Tinea is spread from person to person by direct contact, commonly in such places as contaminated public showers, locker rooms, work-out mats, and gym equipment.

People most at risk include those taking strong antibiotics, especially for a long period of time. People with diabetes are more likely to develop tinea infections because the elevated level of sugar in the body provides food for fungus and encourage its overgrowth. Other people at risk include the very young and very old… or those taking steroid medications or on chemotherapy, which all suppress the immune system.

Tinea infections can increase the risk for developing a cellulitis, which can be serious in some people.

Diagnosing common tinea infections, such as athlete's foot, jock itch and ringworm can generally be done by visual exam of the foot for athlete's foot, groin for jock itch, or scalp for ringworm. (source)

How serious is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is treatable, but in some people, such as those with diabetes, cellulitis can be serious and lead to gangrene and other potentially life-threatening complications if not recognized and treated promptly.
Cellulitis often occurs on the legs. Symptoms often include swelling, redness, fever and pain that can spread over a larger area. If untreated, cellulitis can spread to the lymph nodes and blood and lead to serious, even life-threatening complications, such as bacteremia and toxic shock syndrome..
People at risk for cellulitis and its complications include those who have a compromised immune system due to such diseases as HIV/AIDS or combined immunodeficiencies. People who take certain medications, such as corticosteroids or chemotherapy, which suppress the body's natural immune response, are also at risk for contracting cellulitis. Other risk factors include having diabetes, cancer, animal bites, human bites, severe burns, or severe trauma.
It is possible that a diagnosis of cellulitis can be missed or delayed because some symptoms, such as fever and headache are similar to symptoms of other diseases of conditions. Treatment of cellulitis varies depending on its severity and extent, and a person's medical history, age, and general health. One type of cellulitis that is particularly hard to treat is caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). 

So folks, there are 2 possible ways to avert this public health risk:

We could carefully scrutinize the list of activities, and ban all those whose health might be affected by the presence of the Islamic prayer group - those taking strong antibiotics, people with diabetes, the very young and very old, those taking steroid medications or on chemotherapy, those with HIV/AIDS, those who take medications, such as corticosteroids or chemotherapy, which suppress the body's natural immune response, those with cancer, animal bites, human bites, severe burns, or severe trauma.

Bear in mind that many of the activities are geared towards the elderly, or those free during the day, which might well include the sick and disabled.

e.g. Computers for Late Starters, Drop -in-art: Free Art activity every Tuesday afternoon, 50+ Rummytiles Group. (reference)

Another aspect of Alma Road Community House is Maternal & Child Health.

The service is for all families with children from birth to six years of age and provides information, guidance and support on a wide range of topics, including: lactation, child growth and development, maternal health and family wellbeing.

At a Maternal & Child Health centre you can:

• Participate in a series of one-to-one consultations, which include a thorough health and developmental checks, at specific times in your child’s early years
• Get help in contacting specialist services if extra assistance is needed
• Be in a new parent group where you can obtain information and have the chance to meet other parents in your local area
The MCH nurse will contact new mothers within a few days of arriving home from hospital to organise a visit to their homes. After this the nurse will make further appointments for the family to visit their local MCH Centre.
The MCH nurse can refer families to the Enhanced Maternal & Child Health service which provides families with additional needs with extra support.

Naturally, this service would have to be disbanded, as we know the very young are at risk from tinea infection.

Alternatively, we could insist that the Islamic Prayer Group is removed!