No action plan to check jaundice outbreak?

HYDERABAD, MARCH 24. The reaction of authorities to the jaundice outbreak in parts of the city, as of now, seems to be restricted to the crackdown on unclean ice candy factories and dairy farms in the Moinbagh area. That is, apart from the medical treatment being extended.

The fact that the six ice candy factories that were using contaminated water for their products and the eight dairy farms, among which six were unauthorised, were functioning for quite some time "without being noticed" has been sidelined for the moment, an official said, adding that with the Metro Water Board sticking to its stance that its pipelines alone cannot be blamed, there is no clear picture on who is to be blamed for the outbreak.

21 more cases suspected

Meanwhile, 21 suspected jaundice patients were admitted to Fever Hospital on Thursday. Their blood samples are being tested. Of the 53 samples tested on Tuesday, 45 were diagnosed with Hepatitis E while five were confirmed with Hepatitis A.

Overall, there are 101 patients, some under observation and others undergoing treatment at the hospital, according to the District Medical and Health Officer, S. Satyavathi.

Health officials admit that several water pipelines in the old city, laid decades ago, are corroding, allowing mixing of sewage and drinking water.

These were the main reasons behind the disease that has put 101 people in hospital so far. The ice factories were using water from these, while the dairy farms had dumped dung into storm water drains, which then seeped into already leaking water pipes.

Major steps needed

Though the Water Board has plans to clean sewage pipes in the area in a week, and to `check' areas where water pipes cross storm water drains, a few officials express concern over the lack of a concrete action plan that should be implemented to prevent such outbreaks in future.

"Unless there is a major plan to fix all leaking and corroding pipelines, along with aggressive awareness programmes to prevent consumption of contaminated water, such outbreaks cannot be prevented.

There is not much use in punishing a few ice cream factories or dairy farms, whose role in the outbreak could be very minimal," an official wishing anonymity said.

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