Gastroenteritis kills at least 16

At least 12 people have been killed since last Thursday in the city of Faisalabad in Pakistan’s central Punjab province following an outbreak of gastroenteritis, while another four children have died in southern Hyderabad city in Sindh province from the same disease, provincial health authorities confirmed on Thursday.

“More than 8,000 people, mostly children with complaints of diarrhoea and gastroenteritis, have been treated at various public and private medical centres in the city to date. However, the situation is improving now and the number of patients is decreasing,” Rana Zahid Tauseef, head of Faisalabad’s district government, said.

“Besides hospitals and clinics, some eight mobile medical units have been deployed in the area to provide basic emergency treatment. In addition, due to a heavy caseload in hospitals, one of the schools in the area has been converted to a makeshift medical centre,” Tauseef added.

To prevent new infections, Faisalabad’s authorities have started providing clean drinking water to 250,000 people in the affected area through water tankers.

The outbreak, the first of this scale in the area, was caused by polluted water in parts of the country’s leading industrial city, according to officials.

“The city’s water supply and sewage system is outdated. Pipelines over 30 years old are cracked and need replacement,” Tauseef said. He added that replacing the damaged supply pipes would cost more than US $3.5 million.

Meanwhile in Sindh, Health Director-General Dr Hadi Bux Jatoi, said four children had died and over 2,500 people had been hospitalised with gastroenteritis since the first week of May, after consuming contaminated water.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Sindh has provided provincial health authorities with 50,000 chlorine tablets and 1,000 kg of chlorine powder for the purification of water.

On Wednesday, a two-member team UNICEF also visited the area and carried out a quick technical survey to get an update of the situation. “We are in regular contact with local health officials and they have our offer of assistance wherever they need us,” Raana Syed, head of UNICEF’s Sindh programme, said from the southern port city of Karachi.