According to sources in the area, at least three people died in the last week since June 17, while over 300 people have been affected in the last three months.
One of the deceased was Shaheda Mili, 43. She died in a private hospital in the city.
Mili was suffering from Hepatitis E virus (HEV) and died due to liver failure, said Dr Munirul Islam, ICU Cordinator of Chittagong Specialised Treatment and Trauma Centre, where Mili was undergoing treatment.
“My mother was diagnosed with jaundice on June 13, and she died after three days,” said Sadia Zafor, daughter of Mili. “When we took her to the hospital, doctors said she would be okay after taking complete rest and drinking safe water.”
“Not only my mother, at least one member of almost every family in Halishahar area has been suffering from jaundice,” said Sadia, student of a private university.
“Our security guard has recovered from jaundice after suffering for two months,” she said, adding, “A 19-year old Md Risat in Halishahar A Block died from the same disease on June 20.”
Another infected, Yassir Arafat, 27, died in a hospital in the capital on June 24. Arafat’s younger brother Iftekherul Alam Fahim said his brother was diagnosed with HEV on June 14.
“We immediately brought him to doctor, and as per doctor’s advice he was in complete rest at home,” said Fahim. “My brother’s health condition started to deteriorate after two days and we shifted him to a private hospital in the capital on June 22, but he died there on June 24.”
Both Fahim and Sadia suspected that there might have been leakage in Chittagong Water Supply and Sewage Authority (CWASA) pipeline.
“We have heard that the CWASA pipeline and sewerage line have mingled during the road development works in the area,” said Fahim, adding, “The authorities should check it well.”
Dr Selim Akter Chowdhury, chief medical officer of Chittagong City Corporation (CCC), confirmed to The Daily Star that three people in Halishahar area died due to acute hepatitis in the last week.
According to Chittagong Civil Surgeon (CCS) office sources, over 300 people infected by HEV were given treatment in Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Disease in Fauzderhat area of Chittagong since April.
Under this circumstance, a team from Institute of Infectious Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) visited Halishahar area and collected blood samples from 25 affected people on May 3, said CCS, adding that they also collected the sample of drinking water.
Contacted, Dr SM Ali Haider, assistant professor of Gastroenterology of Chittagong Medical College Hospital, said people are infected by Hepatitis E virus through water and food.
“In most cases, supporting treatment as well as complete rest and taking pure water can cure a patient, but sometimes it may turn fatal,” he said.
“A patient out of 100 may die in HEV infection,” he added.
Agrabad and Halishahar areas regularly go under water during high tide, and so the underground water tanks of the houses may be contaminated with tidal water, said Dr Azizur Rahaman Siddique, Chittagong Civil Surgeon.
Tidal water is contaminated in many ways including industrial effluents and human waste, he said.
Contacted, AKM Fazlullah, managing director of Chittagong Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (CWASA) also held the tidal water responsible for the outbreak of jaundice in Agrabad and Halishahar areas.
He denied the allegation of presence of HEV in water supplied by CWASA. “If CWASA water was contaminated by HEV, people residing in 80 percent areas of the city would have been affected,” he said.
Fazlullah, however, said they regularly check the pipeline of CWASA for leakage, but “no such incident” was traced so far in the areas.
CCC chief medical officer Selim Akter Chowdhury, however, said he asked his officials to find out the reason of the death of people in the areas.
“I have heard that they were suffering from jaundice. We are looking into it,” he said.
After the breakout in the areas, Chittagong Civil Surgeon’s office started an awareness campaign among people. It also circulated a notice to drink water after boiling at least for 30 minutes and use water purifying tablets.
“We have already distributed 1,75,000 water purifying tablets in the areas since April and another 25,000 tablets will be distributed,” said the civil surgeon, adding, “We have also established a medical camp there.”
“We have also distributed leaflets in this regard,” he said, claiming that the number of patients has reduced significantly due to the awareness programme.