Eighteen school students, all of them girls, staying in the Government Backward Class Hostel at Velagoundampatti, were hospitalised on Wednesday after they complained of vomiting and dysentery.
Health Department officials said that the girls suffered from food poisoning after they had idli and sambar for breakfast. District Collector V. Dakshinamoorthy placed the hostel cook P. Aruna under suspension on charges of negligence in cooking that could have resulted in food poisoning.
Twelve girls were admitted to the Primary Health Centre (PHC) in Manickampalayam and the others to the Periyamanali PHC. The Collector visited the PHCs and enquired about their health. He also visited the hostel along with health officials and conducted an inquiry. The officials said that totally 50 girls studying in the Velagoundampatti Government Higher Secondary stayed in the hostel.
A health department official told The Hindu that all the other students in the hostel were screened in order to check whether they had any problem. The hospitalised girls were out of danger, but were under observation, the official said.
“We collected water samples and food samples from the hostel, stool samples of the girls and sent it to the laboratory in Salem for testing. The water source and the surroundings of the school and hostel were also inspected”, he added.
Some of the students said on condition of anonymity that a new cook was appointed in the hostel about a week ago. “We told her and school authorities that the quality of food and preparation was not good after the previous cook left. The hostel functions in a classroom and lacks basic amenities”, they alleged.
In a press release, Mr. Dakshinamoorthi said training on preparing food in hostels in a hygienic manner would be conducted for the cooks in all the 63 government hostels functioning under the Backward Classes hostels in the district to avoid such incidents.
Deputy Director of Health Services B.R. Jemini and Tiruchengode Revenue Division Officer S. Kavitha also visited the hostel and spoke to the affected students.