At least one person has died and 200 others have been hospitalized due to an unidentified illness in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, reports said Monday.
The illness was detected Saturday evening in Eluru, an ancient city famous for its hand-woven products. Since then, patients have experienced symptoms ranging from nausea and anxiety to loss of consciousness, doctors said.
A 45-year-old man who was hospitalized with symptoms similar to epilepsy and nausea died Sunday evening, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
Officials are trying to determine the cause of the illness. So far, water samples from impacted areas haven’t shown any signs of contamination and patients have tested negative for COVID-19
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'Mystery illness' in India is neurotoxic poisoning, initial reports say
Traces of heavy metal such as lead and nickel found in blood of victims of mass poisoning
A “mystery illness” that killed one person and hospitalised more than 500 others, predominantly children, in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is believed to be a mass neurotoxic poisoning, according to the initial medical report.
On Saturday, hundreds of terrified residents of the city of Eluru in Andhra Pradesh developed nausea, burning eyes and seizures and a 45-year-old man died of epilepsy-type symptoms.
The victims all had increased levels of highly-toxic heavy metals in their bloodstream, including lead and nickel, according to a preliminary study by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
“We have tentatively identified the primary cause of this strange phenomenon, but it is not yet clear what the source is and how and why it has happened,” said Katamaneni Bhaskar, a state health commissioner in Andhra Pradesh.
“For instance, the chemicals were found in the bodies of the patients but not in either water or any other food substance.”
A further 65 people were admitted to hospital in Eluru on Monday night and all of those who have been hospitalised so far have tested negative for Covid-19, ruling out any link to the virus, according to the Health Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Alla Kali Lrishna Srinivas.
The residents of Eluru are blaming a recent anti-mosquito campaign, which used organochlorine pesticides to kill the insect, as the substance can cause severe neurological damage in humans if accidental high-level exposure occurs.
Children are particularly vulnerable to organochlorine poisoning as they absorb higher levels of heavy metals than adults, according to the World Health Organisation.
“It is neurotoxin contamination with most probably from lead and nickel but we are yet to establish the source of infection,” said Dr AVR Mohan, the Medical Superintendent for the district hospital in Eluru.
“It must have come from some pesticides or toxic chemicals sprayed in the area which has contaminated the food taken by patients.”