The District Panchayat president Eldose Kunnappilly has given instructions to local self-government institutions at the Corporation, municipality and panchayat levels to take immediate action in banning street food vending in view of the communicable diseases such as hepatitis A spreading at a fast pace.

A meeting of public health officials, district medial officers, and several panchayat presidents called by the district panchayat on Saturday decided that the `thattukadas' should close for at least two months in view of the spread of jaundice in the district that has taken six lives so far. The decision was based on a report by the State Epidemiologist who had investigated the spread of the disease in Kothamangalam area. His study had found that water used in toddy and the food and water served by the thattukadas contributed largely to the spread of jaundice.

Mr. Kunnappilly said all the heads of local bodies and public health authorities had been instructed to effectively carry out the ban on thattukadas. They had been asked to carry out raids and serve notice on the thattukadas.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Kunnappilly said that the decision was taken according to the recommendation of the district Health authorities and the expert opinion sought by the Health authorities with respect to the spread of hepatitis A that was first reported from Kothamangalm taluk.

So far about 350 people have reported symptoms of jaundice during the last two months and six deaths have also been reported that has made the Health authorities suggest precautionary measures in areas where the disease has not been reported.

Most `thattukadas' operated in an unhygienic way and served unhygienic food. Most of these open-air eateries were located in very unhygienic environs, mainly close to open drains. Though the thattukadas are known to serve steaming hot food, the reality was that they often sold stale food. Dosas, omelettes and tea were the hot ones, but the rest of the menus were all stale. They made to do with very little water for dish-washing and the water served was often contaminated. Since the thattukadas were open mainly at night, customers hardly noticed the unhygienic conditions.

R. Sudhakaran, district medical officer, said that hepatitis A spreads through the faecal-oral route and the food gets contaminated if handled by people in unhygienic conditions. Lack of personal hygiene, using contaminated water for washing utensils and using unhygienic toilets could lead to hepatitis A virus getting into the human system.

Wells get contaminated if the distance from the septic tanks is less than the required parameters.

One can get the infection if one is served by a person who has touched contaminated water.

More In: Kochi