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'A worse tragedy brewing in TN'

By Ganesh Nadar in Kanyakumari
December 28, 2004 19:33 IST
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A couple of days after the tsunami struck, the tragedy continues in Colachel, in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.

The body count has been increasing and doctors in the government hospital have been working ceaselessly for 48 hours now.

The Indian Medical Association has supplied the hospital with gloves, masks and syringes with medicine.

But chief medical officer Dr Thanammal is a worried lady.

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She said, "One tragedy has already happened and a greater tragedy is waiting to happen. There can be a typhoid or Cholera outbreak here within a week. The incubation period for these diseases is a week. You see the flies buzzing around the corpses? They will spread the disease. We need anti-cholera and anti-typhoid injections for the entire population here. We have made a request to the government and are waiting for supplies."

People should drink only boiled water. The decomposing bodies are contaminating water everywhere, she warned.

"The media should inform the public that an epidemic is staring them in the face and they should take preventive measures," she said.

"Tetanus is an injection we normally administer injured persons; but since morning we have injected 5000 people with the drug. We did it because they were afraid of getting infected by the dead bodies. Tetanus does no harm. Further, if they take one shot now, it will protect them for the next six months. It also has a psychological effect...they feel better."

The assistant secretary of the Indian Medical Association, Tamil Nadu, Dr P R Rajan, said: "People are at a risk from not only typhoid and cholera, skin diseases can also spread. In a situation like this, all contagious diseases are likely to spread faster'.

He has been advising the public to disinfect stagnant water with bleaching powder, which is easily available.

The IMA has been providing all flood victims free medicines and treatment. The Rotary Club is engaged in distributing clothes and food in the area.

But doctors in the private sector do not seem to be doing their bit... for various reasons.

Enquiries with them revealed that they have no problems treating these poor victims but are scared of the mob.

"When a patient dies, sometimes the mob turns violent. They think it is because we administered wrong medicine or denied them some medicine because it was expensive that the patient died. In the government hospitals there are policemen to protect doctors. We do not have any such help."

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Ganesh Nadar in Kanyakumari