A 25-year-old woman from Airoli succumbed to Hepatitis E, a water-borne infection, on Tuesday at Sir JJ Hospital in Byculla. The disease, which has killed 44 pregnant women in the city between April 2015 and March 2016, was the biggest cause of mortality, surpassing tuberculosis and childbirth-related complications, reveal statistics from the civic body.
Sushmita Das was five months pregnant with her first child. Within five days of complaining of incessant vomiting, she landed in a comatose state. Her husband, Sanjay, said she had her first bout of vomiting on April 27. “We thought the vomiting was due to the pregnancy and took her to a local doctor. She felt better after consuming the medicines,” he said, adding that they were planning to take her to their village in Orissa. “We had booked the ticket for April 29, but that morning, she became extremely ill. Her eyes were yellow and we were scared,” he said.
Sanjay took Sushmita to a civic hospital in Vashi, where doctors asked him to take her to Mumbai as her condition was critical. At Sir JJ hospital doctors found that her liver was affected and her lungs were not functioning. She was shifted to the critical care unit, where she was put on ventilator support. However, she succumbed.
Sushmita’s family suspects the contaminated water at their home in Airoli caused the infection. “When she took ill, seven others in the area had also developed jaundice,” said her brother-in-law, Gaurang.
Doctors said hepatitis infection during pregnancy can prove fatal as the immunity of pregnant women becomes low because of child-bearing.
At Sir JJ Hospital, 12 of the 45 maternal deaths recorded last year were caused by Hepatitis E, highlighting the poor access to potable water. What is even more worrying is that these mothers are dying within a few days of contracting the infection. Usually, Hepatitis E does not even need treatment and the patients recuperate on his own.
On Monday, a 24-year-old mother from Kalyan, also admitted to Sir JJ Hospital, lost her second unborn child to the Hepatitis E infection. Kavita Patil developed abscess in her liver and is still battling the infection. Doctors performed an emergency procedure after the six-month foetus died in her womb. “We used to get yellow-colour water at my home in Kalyan. We would boil it and drink. I didn’t have the money to buy bottled water,” said Patil. Patil, doctors said, has a severe infection, which is difficult to contain.
In January, a 25-year-old woman, who was nine months pregnant, died of Hepatitis E. She was admitted to KEM Hospital in Parel and died within five days.
Dr Satish Arora, the gynaecologist who treated the Bhandup resident, said, “Her reports showed her liver was affected. Her condition had worsened. I referred her to KEM Hospital.” However when she reached the hospital, she was bleeding uncontrollably, which eventually led to her death.
Why Hepatitis during pregnancy can prove fatal?
Hepatitis E proves to be fatal for one-third of pregnant women, according to doctors. “Indian women are known to be malnourished and anaemic, which only increases their risk of developing fatal complications as a result of Hepatitis E infection. It is the most dreaded infection in pregnancy,” said Dr Om Shrivastav, infectious diseases consultant.
“The inflammation will not just harm the foetus, but also lead to the shrinking of the liver, which only worsens the mother’s health further,” said Dr Shrivastav.