Local youths would conduct Information Education and Communication (IEC) activities in vulnerable areas. Credit: CDC Global/Flicker
Cholera outbreak has been confirmed in the tribal-dominated Rayagada district of Odisha. The Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC) has reported cases of cholera in Kalyansinghpur block with 28 people getting affected with diarrhoea between July 16 and 22. “Our team of microbiologists went to the area and collected five samples of which two had the presence of vibrio cholera bacteria,” said Namita Mohapatra, director of the RMRC.
While five deaths have been reported from the mineral-rich district in southern Odisha, the state government has put the official toll at two. At least 46 cases of diarrhoea have been reported so far. While Odisha Health and Family Welfare Minister Atanu S Nayak directed authorities to ensure 24-hour healthcare and safe drinking water supply in areas where people have died allegedly due to cholera, the state Health Secretary Arati Ahuja claimed that five persons died of diarrhoea and not cholera.
She also rejected the allegation that cholera has taken the form of an epidemic in Kalyansinghpur area by claiming that water sources in the region have not tested positive for cholera virus. As a protocol, anti-cholera treatment is being provided in the affected villages after vibrio cholerae reports started coming in.
Mapping of endemic villages
The Health Department started the process of mapping the endemic villages in Kalyansinghpur and Kashipur blocks. So far, about 250 vulnerable areas have been identified in the district where local youths would be engaged to step up the Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities. They would conduct the activity in tribal dialects to get a better impact among the villages that have a history of diarrhoea and cholera outbreaks in 2007 and 2010.
Preparedness and health care infrastructure
While more than 30 people are getting treated in the district headquarters hospital at Rayagada, which is about 50 km from the affected villages, the emergency preparedness is being questioned by the locals as more and more of them are making a beeline at community health centres at Kalyansinghpur.
For the people of Rayagada district, especially those residing in interior blocks such as Kashipur, Kalyansinghpur, Chandrapur and Gudari, basic health services remain a distant dream. Even the district hospital, sub-divisional hospital at Gunupur and other government hospitals don’t work to its potential due to acute staff shortage and poor infrastructure.
Apart from shortage of doctors, the government hospitals have a poor sanitation record. Unscientific waste management policy and poor maintenance of drainage system further aggravate the situation. It partly explains why cholera has resurfaced in the district after it was reported in Kashipur block during 2010 and again in Kalyansinghpur block during 2013.
Kerala on alert
Four cases of cholera were reported in Malappuram district in the second week of July. After Malappuram, cholera outbreak was witnessed in the Pattancherry and Perumatty panchayats of the neighbouring Palakkad district. The results of water samples test indicated presence of coliform bacteria as well as cholera-causing bacteria. In Palakkad, the health department has already identified 25 panchayats vulnerable to monsoon-related diseases.
Meanwhile, the district medical officer in Malappuram district has ordered the supervisers to take up large-scale disinfection drive. Kozhikode, the neighbouring district that is already battling diphtheria, dengue, malaria and leptospirosis, has confirmed a case of cholera last week.
With cholera being reported from Puthiyangadi, the Department of Health has issued a warning to people to remain alert and take precautionary steps. Health committee chairman K V Baburaj said that teams of health inspectors had been formed to monitor the quality of food, water and beverages being sold at eateries and juice stalls.
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