RAJBIRAJ, Feb 5: A Dalit woman in a village in Saptari district has died soon after taking anti-elephantiasis drugs, raising doubts over health officials´ claims that the drugs are safe.
Sanjha Devi, 55, a resident of Bamangamakatti VDC-3, who took one Diethylcarbamazine (DEC) tablet and three Albendazole tablets that were being distributed at a local primary health care centre (PHCC) on Saturday under an anti-elephantiasis campaign, died on Sunday.
She had complained of vomiting soon after taking the drugs.
“After she started vomiting, we gave her jeevan jal (oral rehydration salts),” said her husband Jhallu Sada. “But, we could not save her. She died Sunday evening.”
According to Jhallu, Sanjha had been suffering from high blood pressure and heart disease -- conditions in which people should not take anti-elephantiasis drugs. Jhallu accused local health workers of not informing him properly about the side-effects of anti-elephantiasis drugs.
In Sanjha´s neighborhood, Urmila Thakur, 50, has also fallen sick after taking the anti-elephantiasis drugs. She is now receiving treatment at a local health post.
Health officials say pregnant women, children below two and people suffering from prolonged conditions such as high blood pressure should not be administered the anti-elephantiasis drugs. They say such people would suffer several serious side-effects.
After many people fell ill and some died last year, reportedly after taking the anti-elephantiasis drugs, health officials had urged health workers not to give the drugs to pregnant women, under-two children or people suffering from prolonged illness.
Sanjha´s death has fueled speculation that local health workers are not strictly following the instructions issued by health officials.
However, the district public health office in Saptari has refuted Jhallu´s allegation that Sanjha died after taking the anti-elephantiasis drugs. “There is no correlation between Sanjha´s death and the anti-elephantiasis drugs,” said office chief Bijaya Kumar Jha.
Jha also denied Jhallu´s claim that health workers did not inform him about the fatal side-effects of anti-elephantiasis drugs. “Our health workers gave anti-elephantiasis drugs to Sanjha after she made it clear that she had not been taking any other medicine,” said Jha.
Health officials claim that anti-elephantiasis drugs are certified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and have no fatal side-effects.
On Saturday, the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division started an anti-elephantiasis campaign in 56 districts.