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The Hindu
23 February 2009
by Manas Dasgupta
Ahmedabad, India

All the hotels and restaurants in Modasa town in Sabarkantha district in north Gujarat were ordered to be closed down as the Hepatitis-B epidemic continued unabated with the death toll going up to 37.

Unofficial sources, however, put the toll at 47. The State Congress spokesman and the former leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Arjun Modhvadia, claimed that not less than 60 people had died due to the epidemic in Modasa alone.

Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas, who visited the affected town, announced free vaccination for all the people in Modasa to check the spread of the disease. The government had already acquired more than 60,000 vials for the genetically mutated Hepatitis-B virus and about six lakh vials were on way from Hyderabad.

Special teams of experts from the National Institute of Virology, Pune, the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases visited Modasa and other affected-parts of Sabarkantha district to study the situation.

A special laboratory had also been opened at the Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad, to test the Hepatitis virus.

About 30 new cases of jaundice were reported from Modasa and Idar towns in Sabarkantha district while nine more cases were registered in Olpad taluka in Surat district in far-off south Gujarat.

The Sabarkantha police have arrested a medical practitioner, Govind Patel, on the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder after it was found that most of the patients who died in the current epidemic were initially treated in his clinic opposite the Modasa primary health centre.

The police have found that the doctor indulged in the malpractice of re-using disposable syringes that was believed to have caused spread of the epidemic.

At least seven other doctors in the town were earlier booked for various irregularities while three engineers in the Water Supply Department suspended for carelessness in allowing sewage to mix with potable water.

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