Death Toll in Ballia Rises to 68: ‘Not Linked to Heatwave’, Say Health Officials

According to district health officials, if it was heat-related, nearby areas would also be seeing similar deaths.

3 min read

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Editorial Inputs: Anoushka Rajesh, Piyush Rai

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Senior Editor: Shohini Bose

14 more people admitted to a district hospital in Uttar Pradesh’s Ballia died on Monday, 19 June, taking the death toll up to 68 in a span of five days.

Ballia Chief Medical Superintendent Dr Divakar Singh had, on 16 June, said that the cause of at least 20 deaths was heatstroke. However, government officials have since claimed that the heatwave-like conditions in the region did not trigger the deaths.

Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak even slammed Dr Singh for his "careless remark, without having information about the heatwave," adding that he had been transferred to Azamgarh.

But if not the heatwave, what is behind the recent deaths in Ballia? Here’s what health officials in the area are saying.


Why Heatwave Has Been Ruled Out

A two-member committee comprising Dr AK Singh, director (communicable diseases), and Dr KN Tiwari, director (medical care), inspected the district hospital on Sunday, 18 June, and confirmed that "the symptoms of the patients suggest that the cause of the deaths was not due to weather disturbances".

"So far, only two persons have died due to heatstroke in the district," Dr Jayant Kumar, Chief Medical Officer for Ballia district, told PTI.

So, what are the symptoms related to heatstroke patients? And what were the symptoms of the patients who died in the district hospital?

"The most common symptoms of severe heatstroke are high fever and loss of consciousness. While some of these patients (who died) had fever, they didn't have the kind of high fever that heatstroke patients have."
Dr AK Singh, director (communicable diseases)

According to CMO Dr Jayant Kumar, 40 percent of the 54 patients that died between 15 and 18 June had fever. But the patients mainly had chest pain and breathing issues.

"Chest pain and breathing issues could be caused by underlying conditions like heart issues," said Dr Shailendra Singh Rawat, medical officer in-charge, Ballia, adding that of the patients who died in Ballia in the past week, around 60 percent were suffering from other diseases, including heart diseases, blood pressure, and kidney conditions.


Although there has been a spike in patients suffering from heatstrokes, Dr Rawat said, "In heatstroke patients, the symptoms are fever, vomiting, and diarrhoea, but those are generally resolved with some ORS, or if their blood pressure drops too low, we give them intravenous RL (Lactated Ringer's solution)."

Ballia is currently grappling with extreme heat. The district experienced a maximum temperature of 44 degrees Celsius on Saturday, 17 June, surpassing the normal range by six degrees. The India Meteorological Department has also issued a yellow alert in light of the heatwave-like conditions in parts of Uttar Pradesh.

FIT also reached out to Dr Rakesh Singh, a general physician in Ballia, who said that although the district had been "seeing some cases of dehydration and related issues, but nothing serious."

If Not Heatwave, Then What?

Officials have, however, expressed concern over the surge in patients hospitalised in the past week. Nearly 400 patients were reportedly admitted to the district hospital between 15 June and 17 June.

Of these, 54 patients died within three days, confirmed Dr Singh, adding, "they were all aged above 60 years."

"The number of deaths in the district hospital seen in the last week is unusual. Had it been a matter of weather, the nearby districts would have also been affected," Singh conceded. Hence, they are investigating to know more, he added.

It must also be noted that most of the patients who died belonged to two towns – Bansdih and Gadwar – in the district.

"16 patients of the Bansdih block and 11 patients of the Garhwar block have died," said Singh.

Both these areas are close to a river (Ganges), which has led investigating officials to consider water contamination as a possible cause of the deaths.

He further added that the team will carry out blood, urine, serum, and even stool tests of the currently patients admitted – particularly in those patients who have diarrhoea.

"In these blocks, the team will go from door-to-door to investigate the causes of the disease. If necessary, the water will also be tested in these areas."
Dr AK Singh, director (communicable diseases)

The commitee has not specified when these test will be carried out, or when the reports will be available.

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Topics:  Heatwave   Heat Deaths India   Ballia 

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