Unsafe water and soaring mercury have taken their toll on a Dum Dum pocket, with three residents dying of Hepatitis A-related complications and over 500 others showing jaundice-like symptoms.
The rapid spread of the affliction has been blamed on the contamination of drinking water supplied through pipelines.
The South Dum Dum civic authorities have described this as a “sudden outbreak” and sent an SOS to the state government, seeking immediate help from the health department to check the spread of the disease. “It is beyond the municipality’s control,” they have admitted.
Mithu Chatterjee, a 17-year-old girl and resident of Pratichi, in Dum Dum, died at a local nursing home on Monday. On Thursday, another woman, aged about 32, died at RG Kar Medical College and Hospital. The third victim was an unidentified man who lived in a Chashipara slum.
The municipal authorities have suspended the supply of piped water in the affected areas to check the spread of the disease. Sixteen water tankers have been deployed to supply drinking water, said Sreehir Bhattacharjee, chairman of the municipality. But the tankers have proved inadequate in the face of the heat and the humidity.
The infection has spread among residents in the Chashipara, Pratichi, Barmanpara, Low Land, Lalgarh, Nabadiganta Abashan and Swamiji Sarani localities of South Dum Dum.
Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra spoke to municipality chairman Bhattacharjee over telephone on Thursday. “The minister has assured all possible help to combat the disease,” said Bhattacharjee.
According to councillors Ahir Majumdar and Sagarika Das, the condition of 22 people is said to be serious. They are undergoing treatment at RG Kar Hospital and some local nursing homes.
Majumdar, who is councillor of ward 17, which is the worst affected, has contacted the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health and submitted water samples from the affected areas. “We will receive the reports on Friday, but unofficial sources confirmed that the drinking water supplied in these areas has been found to be contaminated and unfit for consumption,” Majumdar said.
Residents were urged not to drink water from the piped supply and CMDA was requested to send tankers to the area to tide over the drinking water crisis, said chairman Bhattacharjee.
He also confirmed that water samples had been collected from four areas and sent to the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health for examination. “We have set up two free medical camps at Kalindi and Sethbagan,” added Bhattacharjee.
Among those who visited the affected areas on Thursday was Abhijit Das, senior physician with SSKM Hospital. The health department instructed Das to visit South Dum Dum to ascertain why the disease has spread so rapidly.