The sick students of Gopinathpur Upper Grade Middle English School being taken to district headquarters hospital in Puri. Picture by Sarat Patra
Bhubaneswar, Sept. 24: About 115 students of a government school in Puri district were hospitalised today allegedly after consuming iron tablets that were administered as part of their midday meals.
The supplementary tablets are given once every week as part of a government scheme to cure anaemia among the children.
The state government has ordered a probe into the incident that took place at Gopinathpur Upper Grade Middle English School in Brahmagiri’s Jadupur area.
A Class II student, who is undergoing treatment at Puri Sadar hospital, said: “Our teachers gave us the tablets saying that it would make us taller and healthier. But after having our meals, we felt dizzy and started vomiting. I still have an acute headache.”
A doctor said the students had fallen ill as they were given iron tablets on empty stomach, which could be “life threatening”. While some of them were admitted to Rebana-Nuagaon Health Centre, others were rushed to district headquarters hospital in a serious condition.
“The children complained of dizziness and vomiting. They were thoroughly examined. However, all of them are out of danger now,” said Puri chief district medical officer Gyanendra Kumar Sahoo. Sources said the block extension educator of Chilika-Nuapada Community Health Centre had administered the medicine.
Expressing concern over the incident, chief minister Naveen Patnaik directed the Puri district administration to initiate a probe and submit a detailed report in this regard. He said the state government would bear the treatment expenses of the children.
“We have seized samples of the tablet for laboratory testing. We will try to find out their composition, the dosage and expiry date,” said district collector Nabakumar Nayak.
Sahoo, however, said there was nothing wrong with the supplementary tablets, which were supplied by the state drug management unit based in Bhubaneswar. “Since it was given on an empty stomach, it had an adverse reaction,” he said.
However, paediatrician Arabinda Mohanty rejected Sahoo’s theory. “If given on empty stomach, iron tablets will be more effectively absorbed. They sometimes cause minor gastric irritation, but not a situation where hospitalisation may be required. I suspect the water they used to swallow the tablets was contaminated,” he said.
BJD MLA from Brahmagiri Sanjay Das Burma and his opponent from the Congress Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra visited the students at the hospital and said the guilty would be punished.
The incident is the latest in a series of midday meal mishaps in the state. While in some cases earthworms and lizards were found in the container carrying midday meals, there have also been instances of children suffering burn injuries after falling in piping hot food.
In another development, 11 students of Rayapada Upper Primary School at Balianta on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar fell ill after consuming midday meal today.
All the students had to be rushed to a nearby primary health care centre. The district administration has ordered a probe into the incident.