Odisha: 4 deaths, 13 from village in hospital, Malkangiri district probes unknown disease

Written by Aishwarya Mohanty
| Bhubaneshwar |

September 16, 2020 8:31:08 am





odisha, Malkangiri district, Malkangiri district disease, odisha unknown disease, odisha news, indian expressAn ambulance on duty. (Express Photo/ Arul Horizon/Representational)

The health department in Odisha’s Malkangiri district has initiated a probe after four people belonging to Koya tribe from a remote village in the district died in less than a month, the last dearth registered on Saturday. Thirteen others, showing similar symptoms, are under treatment for an undiagnosed disease.

The symptoms include swollen feet and stomach, loss of appetite, and acute weakness, health officials said.

The deaths have been reported from Sorgiguda village, in Maithili block of the district, which abuts the Chhattisgarh state boundary and has a population of 260.

According to officials, the situation aggravated due to a lack of willingness among villagers to go to hospital for treatment, and instead approaching quacks or local witch ‘doctors’. But villagers said lack of healthcare facilities closer home has forced them to opt for alternative ways.

The nearest health centre is 25 km from the village.

After the successive deaths were reported – of four men, aged 52, 56, 28, and 21 – a medical team from Malkangiri visited Sorgiguda on Saturday and initiated a probe.

Chief District Medical Officer, P K Nanda, said: “We have admitted all patients showing similar symptoms in hospital. Five of them have been diagnosed with malaria as well. As per primary reports, all of them suffer from anemia, with haemoglobin levels in the range of 5-7. The swollen feet and stomach also suggest symptoms of liver or kidney ailments. But that can only be ascertained after all tests have been conducted,”

According to the National Health Portal of the Union Health Ministry, normal haemoglobin levels among women are 12.1 to 15.1 grams per deciliter of blood; and for men 13.8 to 17.2 gm/dl.

Those admitted to hospital are four women aged between 55 and 60 years, two men over 50, and the rest between 20 and 30.

On the local residents’ ostensible apprehension in visiting the hospital, Maithli block medical officer, Dr Amay Swain, said: “When we learnt about the first case (August 10), we sent an ambulance to the village. The ambulance was there for two hours, but residents refused to come to the hospital. When we visited the village again now (Saturday), we identified all patients showing similar symptoms but it took a lot of convincing for them to finally agree to come to the hospital.

“Most of these people survive on pakhal (a combination of rice and water) and consume locally made liquor, which leads to nutrition deficiency and kidney ailments.”

Stating that nothing like this had broken out in the village earlier, one resident, Basant Madhi, said: “People are scared, as nearly 10 per cent of our population seems to be affected by the unknown disease. The health centre is far away and people are also scared of Covid-19 infection. That is why they prefer local doctors.”

The patients have now been admitted at the public health centre with tight security to deter them from escaping before completion of treatment. Officials said they are being administered multivitamin supplements, antibiotics, improved diet, and their conditions are being monitored.

A similar incident was reported in Kenduguda village of Malkangiri this summer, when 15 people had died within three months from April, showing similar symptoms. An inquiry report submitted to the government states that the cause of deaths was inconclusive from the samples collected.

According to medical officials associated with the probe, samples of food, potable water and even the locally made liqour were collected for tests but no conclusions could be drawn.

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