The death toll from an outbreak of cholera and other water-borne stomach diseases in eastern India rose to 197 Friday, with thousands of people still being treated.
Most of the deaths have been reported in three districts some 500 kilometres (310 miles) southwest of impoverished Orissa state's capital, Bhubaneswar, with Koraput district the worst hit.
'Eighty-five people have died so far due to cholera and other acute water- and food-borne intestinal infections in Koraput,' the town's top medical official Rama Chandra Agarwal told AFP, adding that more emergency treatment centres had been opened.
But health activists and opposition parties dispute the official figures, saying the real toll is much higher.
'At least 500 people have died since the outbreak of cholera. It's surprising that the Orissa government still refuses to call it an epidemic,' Communist Party of India (CPI) leader A.B. Bardhan told a news conference Thursday.
'It's a grim reminder of the malnutrition that the tribal people are suffering in the inaccessible areas of the affected districts,' Bardhan said.
The opposition Congress party has called for a state-wide shutdown Monday to protest the deaths.