Around 600 people in the Eluru village of Andhra Pradesh have been infected with a mysterious illness which has led to the hospitalization of these 600 people along with a 45-year-old man succumbing to the disease last Sunday.
The symptoms of this mysterious illness include epilepsy of 3 to 5 minutes, short-term memory loss, forgetfulness, anxiety, nausea, headache and seizures. The demographic affected by this are mostly youngsters below the age of 18 years.
A possible reason for these symptoms could be the presence of ‘lead’, a heavy metal, which has been found in the drinking water. Such high levels of lead can cause physical impairment to the development of brains, nervous system, heart and lungs.
A team of experts from AIIMS (Delhi), National Institute of Virology (Pune) and National Centre for Disease Control have been sent to inspect the situation. Two expert teams from the World Health Organization have also asked to oversee the state of affairs.
On preliminary examination of blood samples, heavy metals were found in the pesticides that got mixed with the drinking water. Experts are collecting samples of water, food and blood for detailed analysis while the main causative agents would most likely be found after one week. In the meantime, the E. coli present in the water was found to be normal and no other known viruses or bacteria have been found.
Researchers are trying to find the reason for the heavy metals getting mixed with the drinking water by examining water and food samples. The cause is suspected to be groundwater contamination, excessive use of pesticides, severe application of chlorine and dumping or burning of used batteries, for which the results are yet awaited.
The experts’ report will be submitted to YS Jagmohan Reddy, CM of Andhra Pradesh. He has visited the hospitals and has assured the families that the government will support them. He has also said that the appropriate measure will be taken as soon as the cause is found.
New cases of this illness were reported daily over the last week. Health authorities of the state have also conducted many tests on drinking water and have taken urine analysis. CT scan results of the patients have proved to be normal. Tests on COVID-19, HSV-2, dengue, chikungunya, etc. have also come negative. The intensity of the spread seems to be much lower than COVID-19. No case has been found of this illness spreading from one person to another.
AKK Srinivas, Deputy CM has assured that the affected people are recovering well, as 85% of the patients have been discharged from the hospital on Thursday. The lead levels in patients dropped after one day of hospitalization.
Because of this incident, a sanitation drive has been started in Eluru and other nearby villages to curtail the spread of the disease. Srinivas, a representative of Eluru, supervised the sanitation drive and inspected the overhead drinking water reservoirs.
Eluru is home to 200,000 people and is majorly known for its weaving industry. In addition to this illness, Eluru is one of the worst affected COVID-19 areas in the state.