The public health challenges that Odisha had to deal with
through out 2014 have exposed flaws in the state health-care system.
Jaundice, dengue, cholera and encephalitis took a heavy toll
on the people across the state. The jaundice or Hepatitis E outbreak has
persisted in Sambalpur city since mid-2014. The disease took an acute shape in
the later part of the year.
Jaundice has so far claimed 17 lives (unofficial sources put
the number at over 30), and affected more than 1700 people.
While the state government has claimed that everything is
slowly getting under control, the fact is that the disease was let to spiral,
since the outbreak was first noticed around June. This has raised concerns on
the efficacy of the preventive or surveillance mechanisms.
The Sambalpur outbreak was caused by drinking water
contamination due to the decades old pipeline system in the city. Delayed
action towards repairing the pipelines and sensitising people led the outbreak
to almost an epidemic situation.
The Sambalpur incident has also put the glare on most of the
other cities in the state. Cities like Bhubaneswar, Berhampur and Cuttack are
also managing with pipelines, which have not been changed for several decades.
Sporadic viral hepatitis outbreaks have become annual
affairs in other cities, which can also take Sambalpur-like shape or even
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has offered `160 crore for
repairing the drinking water supply system in Sambalpur. Similar grants
are needed in all other cities and should be executed immediatly.
Meanwhile, a three-member union government health team
visited Sambalpur on Friday to find out the cause of the outbreak of jaundice
in the city.
The Central team included Dr P Verma, Dr Vidya Arankalle and
Dr Manju. They discussed the issues with the District Collector Balwant
Singh, Health department Deputy Director Bikash Patnaik and Chief District
Medical Officer Jagatkrushna Samant Ray.
They also collected information about the jaundice
outbreak and visited the water treatment plant of the city.