Scores died of water-borne disease in Chhattisgarh, even as state government failed to identify the cause
Already marred by violence, tribals from the interior villages of Dantewada are facing a new challenge. A number of people last month died of or fell a victim to a water-borne disease. Though the state government maintains it is DVD (diarrhoea-vomiting-dysentry), experts suspect it to be as severe as cholera.
“Within hours people died of diarrhoea and vomiting,” said a shopkeeper at Dornapal. While the district administration has recorded 129 deaths in Dantewada and adjoining Bijapur district, residents of Chintalnaar village in Dantewada said that over 60 people died just in their village. Though diarrhoea has been spreading every year after the rains in the violence prone south Bastar region, this is the first time fatalities over 300 have been reported from the two districts.
The state government declared the suspected water-borne disease as DVD but doctors maintain it is cholera. “Cholera is transmitted through contaminated water or food and can rapidly lead to severe dehydration and death if left untreated,” said Dr S M Murty, deputy director, Integrated Disease Surveillance Project in Chhattisgarh. He noted that state health officials visited the interior pockets of the two districts and collected 10 samples and one of the tests confirmed cholera at Raipur medical college. The symptoms of cholera were evident among patients in the affected district, said an ayurveda doctor on condition of anonymity. “Since people in naxal-affected interior villages do not have access to clean drinking water from borewells, they drink contaminated water leading to the disease,” he said.
According to district administration because of violence it is difficult to ensure clean drinking water. “No official can enter the villages to repair borewells because of violence,” said Prasana R, district collector, Dantewada. He pointed out that residents of the affected villages also had no access to medical care. In Chintalnaar there are only two MBBS doctors in community health care centre for three blocks–Sukma, Konta and Chhindgarh. “Since Bastar region has very few public doctors, we have trained ayurveda practitioners for primary health care centre,” Prasana added.
Cholera is one of three diseases requiring notification to World Health Organisation (WHO) under International Health Regulations. WHO regulations require minimum ten tests to be positive for cholera to be declared an epidemic but since the government collected only ten tests from the affected region the sample size was inadequate to assess if the water-borne disease was an epidemic.
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