The death of a 12-year-old girl, who was a student of a civic school in Mumbai, on Friday has triggered panic among several parents. About 487 other students have been hospitalised due to suspected poisoning caused by iron supplements. The pills were reportedly given in the schools to protect children against iron deficiency.
According to a statement from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the girl, named Chandni Shaikh, died at Shivaji Nagar in Govandi four days after she was given an iron and folic acid tablet at the Sanjay Nagar Urdu Municipal School at Bainganwadi in suburban Govandi.
The class VI student skipped school on Tuesday but attended classes on Wednesday and Thursday, said the statement. On Thursday night she allegedly coughed blood, collapsed in her home and died in her father's lap when he was taking her to Rajawadi Hospital in an ambulance.
The mother of the student claimed her daughter was healthy until on August 6 when she was administered iron and folic acid tablets in school. She later fell ill.
While the doctors said that tuberculosis might be a cause behind the student's death, the BMC statement said that the "details of her previous illness are not known."
"A few children complained of nausea and giddiness. However, no one had major signs or symptoms," said a senior BMC official. All the children were examined by paediatricians and advised discharge from the hospitals, he added.
Iron tablets can cause gastric irritation with symptoms like giddiness and nausea that may intensify if taken on an empty stomach, said KEM Hospital dean Dr Avinash Supe. But the school medical officer said the teachers made sure that the tablets were taken only after the students had their mid-day meal.
The pills have been disposed of despite being within the expiry date, said Supe. The samples of mid-day meal have been collected by the Food and Drug Administration, said BMC education officer Mahesh Palkar.