While India is still battling Covid-19, another mysterious illness has plagued the town of Eluru in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh with a population of over 3 lakhs. Since Saturday, the illness has infected over 500 people with over 45 children below the age of 12! In most cases, all the patients showed similar symptoms of - seizures, vomiting, nausea, loss of consciousness and headache among others. While all of them have tested negative for Coronavirus, doctors are not able to pinpoint a single cause for the sickness.
A medical officer at the Eluru Government hospital tells The Indian Express “The people who fell sick, especially the children, suddenly started vomiting after complaining of burning eyes. Some of them fainted or suffered bouts of seizures. Some were in critical condition when they were brought in on Saturday”.
Finding no conclusive clue in the patient’s blood reports, specialist doctors were brought in from All India Institute of Medical Sciences to further investigate the matter. Dolla Joshi Roy, a district surveillance officer told The Guardian that tests were being carried out while looking into possible food and water contamination or even airborne poisoning as the possible cause for the illness as ‘burning eyes’ were one of the symptoms that were reported. Roy commented “Specialist doctors are still working on finding out the cause of this disease and we are waiting for results from the labs. It could be food or waterborne or airborne or some other condition. But we do know this was very localised, the people affected all lived in the same city.”
On Tuesday, the Chief Minister’s officers issued statements saying traced of Lead and nickel were found in the blood of the patients that were admitted with the ‘mysterious virus’. Following this find, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy informed the authorities to “inquire on how lead and nickel particles could have got into the bodies of the people of that region and asked to conduct a detailed study and submit a report".
Suspecting lead and other pesticides as a probably cause for the infection, AP health AP health commissioner K Bhaskar said that the authorities have begun examining vegetables, fruits, soil and all other probable sources. Since the convulsions and lead content in blood has decreased in the patients, he also said that their exposure is acute and not chronic. This means that at this point in time, it seems like a one-time spurt and the impact is limited to Eluru,” he added
In spite of these findings, A.K.K. Srinivas, health minister of the state tells the Media to rule out water contamination as a cause of the illness as “after officials visited the areas where people fell sick, water samples were sent for testing, and no contamination was found”. However, the opposition party had demanded further inquires inciting on water contamination to be the cause for the illness.