47 students reportedly sick in Chengam; Suspicion falls on iron supplement pills

Forty seven students, mostly girls, at the Panchayat Union Middle School in Padiagaram village near Chengam in Tiruvannamalai have taken ill. Iron and folic acid supplementary pills that were distributed by the staff of the Karapattu Primary Health Center (PHC) on the campus on Thursday are suspected to be the cause of sickness. However, their condition was said to be stable. Health officials said that except for a few students from lower classes, most of the 47 affected students were from Classes VI to VIII in the school. The students complained of stomach and throat pain, vomiting, eye irritation and giddiness. They were treated at the Government Taluk Hospital in Chengam and Tiruvannamalai towns. “We have deployed two doctors to attend any emergency in the village. The tablets are safe. Food samples have to be tested at the laboratory of the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (DPH) in Kilpennathur (Tiruvannamalai) to ascertain the actual reason, ”R. Selvakumar, Deputy Director of Health Services (DDHS), Tiruvannamalai, told The Hindu. School authorities said that it was around 11 am on Thursday, that the teachers divided the students into two batches with one batch being given tablets in the morning. The second batch of students was supposed to have been given the tablets in the afternoon. However, after having lunch (lemon rice and egg), most of them, who had the tablets, reported sickness. “It was after a long gap, the students were having these tablets. However, we also checked the expiry and manufacturing dates on the tablet strips, ”said Headmistress R. Lalitha. When teachers informed the parents of students who took ill and who lived in the neighborhood, the latter rushed to the school and argued with teachers. Immediately, 108 ambulances from Chengam, Tiruvannamalai and Polur towns rushed to the remote village and shifted the students to government hospitals. As the health officials including the Village Health Nurse (VHN) of the PHC did not give reasons for the incident, parents and other residents blocked the Chengam – Polur Main Road, maintained by the State Highways, affecting the traffic on the route for an hour . Police and revenue officials pacified the agitated parents and restored traffic.

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