One person has died and approximately 600 others hospitalized since Saturday in a southern Indian state. This is due to a mysterious illness that caused many to fall unconscious after suffering dizziness, seizures and nausea.
Doctors admitted the first patients to hospital on Saturday in Eluru, a town in Andhra Pradesh state. But by Sunday, according to the federal health ministry, they had admitted more than 200 people. They were suffering faintness, headache and vomiting. Patients, including children and women, fell unconscious. That evening, a 45-year-old man died.
READ ALSO: Baby Ariana’s cry for help
By Wednesday, the number of patients had soared close to three-fold. As of Thursday, the hospitals discharged over 85% of the patients. Doctors have not identified the cause of the illness. Nevertheless, tests ruled out COVID-19 infection.
Eluru is home to over 200,000 people. People recognize it by its weaving industry. Investigations have focused on whether the illness links to some groundwater contamination. Moreover, excessive use of pesticides or mass application of chlorine as part of a coronavirus disinfection drive.
Doctors have also discovered traces of lead and nickel in the blood samples of some of the patients. The elevated lead levels could have been a trigger. Especially, as the levels seemed to drop among patients a day after hospitalisation. This is according to the doctors.
The state government says that officials are also checking if dumping or burning of used batteries could have caused the illness. However, they have not elaborated further. Also, they are testing the area’s drinking water and milk samples.
A senior health official has also said that exposure to organochlorides that are present in pesticides and used in mosquito control could be a probable cause. Elevated levels of lead in the bloodstream can impair the development of brains, nervous systems and vital organs such as heart and lungs.
Many countries have banned or restricted organochlorides after research linked them to cancer and other health risks. It was not immediately clear how extensively the chemicals are used in India.