An outbreak of water-borne diarrhoea and cholera has claimed 80 lives in three backward districts of Orissa in the aftermath of monsoon rains with thousands still suffering from the diseases, officials said Monday.
As many as 48 people died of cholera in the impoverished tribal district of Rayagada. In its neighbouring Koraput district 26 died of diarrhoea in the past one-and-a-half months. In the backward Kalahandi at least six people have died, State Director of Health Services Usha Patnaik told IANS Monday.
The situation has worsened in the last two weeks.
"We have treated at least 6,000 patients during the past one-and-a-half months," said P. Sitaram, chief medical officer of Rayagada, where cholera cases have been confirmed.
Cholera has gripped 26 villages in this district but 16 of them remain inaccessible, he said.
Although no deaths were reported Sunday, fresh cases of the disease worsened the situation, he said. More than 50 people were admitted to hospitals at the worst hit Kashipur, some 500 km from state capital Bhubaneswar.
"The district administration has provided at least 13 vehicles to bring patients from the affected villages to the nearest hospital and opened new health centres in the affected villages. Each centre has two doctors and other required medical staff as well as medicines," the official said.
The situation in Koraput was also the same where the diarrhoea had gripped many villages in Dasmantpur block. "Every day hundreds of people are coming to the government hospital," local legislator Taraprasad Bahinipati said.
While the state administration said the death toll in this district was 26 till Sunday evening, Bahinipati told IANS that it could be more than 120.
"In Kalahandi diarrhoea has gripped Thuamulrampur block affecting over a thousand people," the district's chief medical officer Srinibas Naik said.
Six people had died due to the disease and over 100 patients were undergoing treatment in a hospital, he said, adding that the situation was now under control.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik visited the affected areas Monday.
A three-member team headed by Shiv Lal, director of the Delhi-based National Institute of Communicable Disease (NICD), also visited the affected areas.
The outbreak of cholera and diarrhoea is not new in the three districts, which have witnessed such outbreaks almost every monsoon. The cause has been the same over the years - rainwater slush from hilltops contaminating water sources.
Acute infectious diarrhoea can cause death. Cholera is a severe form of diarrhoea and one of the most rapidly fatal illnesses known - a healthy person may die within two to three hours of the onset of symptoms. It is transmitted through ingestion of faeces-contaminated water loaded with the cholera bacterium.
The source of the contamination is typically other cholera patients when their untreated faeces are allowed to get into waterways or into groundwater or drinking water supply.