The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Blindness hits hooch survivors

Tamluk, May 13: At least 50 people who had fallen ill after drinking spurious liquor in East Midnapore’s Tamluk early this month have lost their vision, according to ophthalmologists who examined them at a health camp today.

Hundreds of others are said to be at the risk of losing their vision.

At least 33 people had died after drinking the liquor between May 2 and 4. Over 200 people were treated at the district hospital and many others were admitted to nursing homes here and in neighbouring Mecheda.

“Of the 317 victims we examined today, 10 have become completely blind. Forty others have suffered a significant loss of vision and are moving towards blindness,” said Swapan Kumar Samanta, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital.

According to doctors, these 50 are suffering from “toxic amblyopia”, a condition in which chemical toxicity (in this case of the liquor) creates inflammation of optic nerves, leading to blindness.

“These 50 have a vision of three metres,” said Samanta.

According to the Union health ministry’s norms, a person with a vision of less than six metres is called visually challenged.

“The 10 who have turned completely blind have zero vision,” said Samanta.

Doctors said that the other villagers examined today were also at the risk of losing their vision and needed regular check-ups.

The camp at Bolluk village was organised by the Trinamul Congress-run Shahid Matangini panchayat samiti, under which the 10-odd affected villages fall.

Its deputy chief, Bibhas Kar, said the camp was organised after people started complaining of vision problems. Another camp will be held on May 22.

The district’s chief medical officer, Rabikinkar Nayek, promised health camps at regular intervals for the hooch victims.

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