Mystery illness at Mumbai’s Byculla jail sends 86 inmates to hospital
On Friday morning, 81 women prisoners, and a child had to be rushed from Byculla Jail to Sir Jamshedjee Jeejeebhoy (JJ) Group of Hospitals. By evening, four more inmates complained of the same symptoms and had to be hospitalised as well.
Their condition is now stable, but the cause of their illness is unknown. Jail authorities said all the inmates are being monitored closely.
“We are waiting for the pathology report, which will reveal the exact reason. Also, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) water department has taken water samples. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken food samples. At present we are giving the prisoners distilled and purified water. Also, the complete jail cleanliness process is been started as a precautionary measure,” said Rajvardhan Sinha, inspector general of police (prisons).
Sinha said this episode began on July 15. “A male prisoner suffered from cholera three days ago and was given medicines. To prevent an outbreak, all the prisoners were given medicines by the health department,” Sinha said. The cholera patient is one of five prisoners who complained of vomiting and stomach pain on July 15.
All five were shifted to JJ Hospital. After admission, cholera was diagnosed in a male prisoner.
JJ Hospital authorities informed the BMC’s health department. Officials from the BMC visited Byculla Jail and prescribed 100mg Doxycycline (tablet) to prisoners as a preventive dose against cholera.
“On Thursday evening, all the prisoners and the prison staff took the medicine, and few of them started vomiting and showed signs of dehydration. The jail doctor and JJ doctor, who were present at the time, started their treatment. They were given saline and they were normal,” said Sinha. “On Friday morning, several women prisoners complained of vomiting and dehydration, and they were referred to JJ Hospital where they have been kept under observation.”
Doctors at JJ Hospital don’t believe the Doxycycline dose would cause the symptoms exhibited by the admitted inmates. “Claims of the medicine causing these complications are baseless because the drug isn’t known to cause these complications,” said Dr Wiqar Shaikh, professor of medicine at JJ Hospital. There are 312 women prisoners and 399 male prisoners in Byculla Jail of whom only 81 had to be hospitalised. No complaints of dehydration have been reported from male prisoners or jail staff, Sinha added. JJ Hospital authorities said the inmates were stable and being monitored. Dr Shaikh said, “We put all the patients on intravenous medicines, antibiotics and they are given medicines to prevent gastroenterological infections. A number of bacteria – including salmonella, amoebae or Vibrio cholera – could have caused the symptoms. The medical investigation reports will reveal the exact cause.”
The patients’ test reports are expected on Friday night or Saturday morning. Results from the FDA are also expected soon. “We will try and complete the analysis as soon as possible so that the investigations into the matter are not hampered due to any delay,” said Pallavi Darade, FDA commissioner.