Sonari/Guwahati, Aug. 12: Nearly 60 schoolchildren in the age group 4-9 were taken ill on being administered an oral anti-malaria drug at a primary school in Sivasagar district.
The incident at Bhojo Podumoni Lower Primary School, near Sonari town, triggered panic among parents and brought the state health department’s malaria-prevention campaign under a cloud.
Headmaster Kashinath Nath said the students started vomiting and complained of dizziness after popping the tablets. The condition of three of them deteriorated, but they recovered after treatment at the Sonari Subsidiary Health Centre. All the affected children were sent home later.
The school has nearly 130 students, but only 65 were present today.
Health commissioner Biren Dutta said in Guwahati that quinine tablets had been supplied to the school authorities as part of a “radical treatment” campaign launched following the outbreak of malaria and encephalitis in the area, which comes under Charaideo subdivision of Sivasagar district.
“Though the exact cause of the illness will be known later, we suspect the students took the tablets on empty stomachs,” Dutta told The Telegraph.
Angry parents, however, denied that their wards had not eaten anything. The headmaster had sent the students home at noon to have lunch. The anti-malaria tablets were given after they returned.
“The health workers involved in the campaign should have given proper instructions,” the mother of a child said.
Health department officials said the drive would continue.
The headmaster said a team of health workers from the Sonari Subsidiary Health Centre had carried out “fogging” — spraying DDT — in the school campus on Tuesday. They supplied 300 anti-malaria tablets to be administered to the students.
Bijoy Kumar Bhuyan, in-charge of the Sonari health centre, said all the students were released after being treated. “We gave them some antacids and oral re-hydration solution.,” he added.
Pranab Sagar Dehingia, sub-divisional medical and health officer, Charaideo, said the condition of most of the children were “fine” and they were released after basic medical treatment.
Manashjyoti Baruah, sub-divisional officer (civil) of Charaideo, rushed to the Sonari health centre to take stock of the situation on being informed about children taking ill. He attributed their sudden sickness to the “intense heat”.