Health official says all are normal now

Shortly after the launch of the Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplement (WIFS) programme in Karaikal on Monday, 64 students from various schools were taken to hospital following retching and abdominal pain.

The students, who were taken to the Government Hospital, have since recovered and sent home. According to sources, seven of the students were admitted for overnight observation and were discharged on Tuesday morning.

According to the Deputy Director of the Health Department (Karaikal) Narayanasami, the students were admitted to the hospital on Monday evening after they complained of stomach pain and vomiting. “All the students are normal and there was no need to worry about the tablets which are safe to use,” he assured.

On the issue, Deputy Director (Family Welfare) V.V. Rao, in-charge of the WIFS scheme, told The Hindu that the iron and folic acid supplements given to the students were enteric coated and the coating was designed to dissolve only in the small intestines. It was important, however, that the tablet be given only immediately after food.

On investigation among the students, it was revealed that the students who showed adverse reaction to the tablets had taken the tablets two to three hours before food . This would lead to the tablets dissolving in the stomach and cause vomiting.

The WIFS programme had been launched successfully in Puducherry and so far none of the students in Puducherry had shown any adverse reaction to the medication, he said.

The programme was launched in Karaikal on Monday and around 400 students were given the iron and folic acid supplements. The programme was earlier launched in schools in Puducherry and then in Anganwadis. Through the program, students would be given a weekly supplement of iron and folic acid and every six months they would be given a deworming tablet.

The programme also includes regular screening to identify students who needed special care and also to provide counselling to help students eat better.

The programme has been launched to tackle anaemia in adolescents. Around 75 to 80 per cent of adolescents in the Union Territory have some form of anaemia. The scheme was launched at a cost of Rs. 50 lakh and is for school students from Class VI to XII as well as out of school girls, he said.