Kolkata: The scale of the diarrhoea outbreak has grown to 4,500 patients in a week even as the municipal administration stands its ground that contamination of tap water is not the source of infection.
Now the worried citizen of Kolkata, using bottled water for their safety. They are now treading cautiously when it comes to consumption of water. As a precautionary measure, they have shunned water being supplied by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) altogether. While most are using bottled water for drinking, some have started using it for cooking and even washing vegetables.
A 20-litre bottled water of a local brand was being sold for Rs 40 till the outbreak surfaced. But now, the price has leaped to anything between Rs 60 and Rs 80. Residents have been left with no option but let themselves be fleeced as none wants to take a chance.
As Bacteria in potable water supplied by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) is suspected to be the culprit, although civic officials maintain that laboratory results haven’t thrown up anything to suggest contamination.
The statistics are from Baghajatin State General Hospital and municipal clinics spread across nine wards, leading doctors to question how mass infection was possible without a common source of contamination.
Stool samples from some patients that were tested at the School of Tropical Medicine revealed E. coli. According to doctors, E. coli present in the lower intestines is harmless but not those strains of the bacteria that are introduced into the body from outside.
Public health experts and doctors are convinced that an outbreak of this magnitude couldn’t have occurred without a common source of infection. “In this case, water seems to be the most likely source. Food contamination also causes diarrhoea, but it cannot be that people spread over such a large area consumed the same food. So, the water that people in all these places drink is the prime suspect,” a gastroenterologist said.
Mayor Sovan Chatterjee said on Thursday that water samples tested so far didn’t have anything “abnormal”. But Coliform bacteria, an indicator of the presence of pathogens in water, was found in three water samples.
Mayor Chatterjee claimed that one of these samples were from packaged water while another had been collected from a tube well.
A third sample was from a poorly maintained water tank in a residential building, he said.
The majority of patients recover quickly with intervention. Oral rehydration solution (ORS) is a lifesaver. If the infection is bacterial, antibiotics might be needed along with rehydration, Bhadra said.
A 40-year-old resident of J-Block in Baghajatin died on Wednesday afternoon of complications caused by diarrhoea. The family of Biswajit Das said he had been taken to Baghajatin State General Hospital twice for treatment.
Drinking boiled water is the best way to stay safe from water-borne pathogens, according to doctors. A paediatrician said that children below 12 should also rinse their mouths and bathe with boiled water. Consult a doctor if a stomach upset persists.