Hepatitis outbreak grips Vengoor

The crisis, which has primarily affected the residents of wards 10 through 13, has already claimed three lives and infected approximately 250 individuals, overwhelming the region’s healthcare infrastructure.
Representational image
Representational image

KOCHI : A devastating outbreak of Hepatitis A that has gripped several areas of Vengoor panchayat in Ernakulam district is showing no sign of subsiding, with a husband-wife duo reporting critically ill on Tuesday.

The crisis, which has primarily affected the residents of wards 10 through 13, has already claimed three lives and infected approximately 250 individuals, overwhelming the region’s healthcare infrastructure.

The outbreak has taken a grim toll on the residents of Vengoor and the nearby Mudakuzha panchayat. The deceased have been identified as Karthyayani M C (51) and Jolly Raju (51) of Vengoor and K K Sajeev (48) of Mudakuzha. Among the critically ill is a couple, Anjana and Srikanth, undergoing treatment at separate facilities. While Anjana has shown signs of recovery, Srikanth’s condition remains grave as he battles renal complications and remains unconscious, undergoing dialysis.

Harish, Karthyayani’s son, one of the family’s primary breadwinners, expressed deep frustration over the health centres’ negligence in controlling the outbreak even after several days. “No health official visited our home or the hospital to check on my mother,” he said.

Harish said he plans to file formal complaints against the health centres and the authorities concerned if the situation does not improve.

Raju, the husband of Jolly who died at the Kottayam medical college hospital, blamed broken and contaminated water pipes for the spread of the disease. He also expressed his disappointment with the authorities’ poor management and response to the crisis.

“The reason behind the spread is the improper chlorination of water by the authorities,” lamented Baiju Paul, a ward member, highlighting the root cause of the outbreak.

The authorities have traced the origin of the crisis to the inadequate chlorination of the local water supply, which facilitated the rapid transmission of the highly contagious Hepatitis A virus. The lapse in water treatment has impacted the core areas and spilled over to wards 8 and 9 where a decreased water supply has resulted in lower cases.

Vengoor, one of the largest panchayats in Kerala, spanning an area of 248.01 square kilometres, is located approximately 10 kilometres from the town of Perumbavoor. The first case was reported on April 17, with more cases emerging in the following week. In response to the crisis, the government medical college hospitals in Kottayam and Kalamassery have been at the forefront of the efforts to mitigate the outbreak’s impact, admitting patients and providing essential care.

“The incubation period of Hepatitis A is usually 14–28 days, and we will have to wait till then for signs to show. So, currently, we cannot say anything,” cautioned Peter P V, another ward member, emphasising the need for vigilance.

Governmental bodies have initiated several countermeasures, including the thorough cleaning and super chlorination of water tanks and a robust public awareness campaign using notices, posters and public announcements. Free medical testing and camps have also been organised.

Preventive measures by health dept

The health department has issued a comprehensive set of precautionary measures to curb the spread of jaundice in the district. In a statement, the district medical officer emphasised the importance of adhering to strict hygiene practices, citing contaminated drinking water, consumption of outside food and soft drinks, and the lack of personal and environmental hygiene as major contributing factors.

“Serving welcome drinks prepared with unboiled water and mixed with hot water can aid the transmission of the disease,” said a health department official.

To combat the outbreak, the department has issued the following preventive measures:

  • Use only boiled water for drinking and avoid mixing it with unboiled water

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before cooking, serving, eating, and after using the toilet and going out

  • Avoid eating uncooked food, soft drinks, and stale and contaminated food from unsanitary sources

  • Use fruits and vegetables only after washing them properly

  • Always keep food and water covered tightly

  • Avoid open defecation and ensure safe disposal of baby faeces through toilets

  • Refrain from sharing food, drinking water and utensils used by infected individuals

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