The state has invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act in the textile town of Ichalkaranji in the wake of 12 Hepatitis E deaths and over 4,085 people infected in a month. As many as 78 pregnant women are also among the infected,of whom 40 in their third trimester have been admitted to hospitals in Kolhapur,some 25 km from Icchalkaranji.
Kolhapur civil surgeon Dr L Patil told The Indian Express that the Act provides for steps to control and prevent the spread of the disease,like closure of schools,liquor and wine shops and ice factories. The primary and secondary schools in the town,which has a three-lakh population,will remain shut till June 22.
Health officials said the National Institute of Virology,Pune,has confirmed that a majority of samples from Ichalkaranji had tested positive for Hepatitis E. Of the 12 deaths,three were pregnant women. We have hospitalised 40 women who are in their third trimester. We checked at least 2,000 pregnant women,of whom 78 were infected.
As many as 2,096 patients were treated on out-patient basis since May 15 while 1,250 were hospitalised. At least 180 of them are still hospitalised and no death has been reported in the past three days,Patil said,adding that nearly 41 villages have also been infected.
A death audit committee,comprising doctors of Kolhapur government medical college and the district deputy director of health,has been constituted to confirm whether the deaths were owing to Hepatitis E infection. There have been cases of people with underlying illnesses like liver cirrhosis.
A review committee has attributed the infection to the Panchganga river. Water from the river was used in the town after filtration owing to shortage in the Krishna river in January,February and March. Health officials say the river is polluted owing to release of sewage and industrial process water from Kolhapur. As many as 90 leakages in the drinking water pipeline in Icchalkaranji have also been idenitified as a source of infection.
Once the infection spread across the 25 wards of Icchalkaranji by May 15,the municipal corporation had stopped lifting water from the Panchganga river. The civic body has initiated sanitation measures besides an awareness campaign with banners,leaflets and hoardings.