We haven’t as yet seen the end of the COVID19 crisis and another mystery disease is staring us in a part of our country.
Eluru town in Andhra Pradesh is witnessing a strange disease. Almost 70% of the tone has developed a strange symptom where people are suffering from convulsions, seizures, dizziness and nausea since last Saturday evening.
The seizures last for 3 to 5 minutes followed usually by vomiting or loss of consciousness. Doctors at the Eluru Government Hospital, where most victims are being treated, say the patients are fine within one or two hours and are discharged. People of all age groups, men, women and even small children are among the victims.
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi found traces of lead and nickel in some of the blood samples sent by the state government. Primary suspicion is on water contamination by heavy metals through pesticide or insecticide seeping into drinking water sources.
It has also been figured that the chemicals are found in the body of the patients, but not in either water or any food substance consumed by them. This has further added to the mystery of the disease.
The district administration and Eluru Municipal Corporation officials are also investigating if excessive use of bleaching powder and chlorine in sanitation programmes as part of Covid-19 prevention measures caused water contamination.
Experts from National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad who collected water, blood, and food samples from Eluru say there are indications of lead contamination but can confirm this only after detailed test reports.
State health commissioner Bhaskar has clarified that the disease was not a bacterial or viral infection nor a contagious disease but “ is a sudden onset of symptoms of convulsions and epilepsy which could be treated symptomatically ”.
While AIIMS, New Delhi is testing blood, water and milk samples for heavy metals, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) Hyderabad, is testing for pathogens. National Institute for Nutrition, Hyderabad, is testing samples of urine, blood, water, vegetables, fruits and other consumables for traces of heavy metals and pesticides. The Indian Institute of Chemical Technology is testing water and blood samples for traces of pesticides.
A two-member WHO team is in Eluru to monitor the situation. During the household survey, water samples taken locally were tested but no traces of lead or pesticides were found.
Doctors and scientists are still trying to figure out the cause of these symptoms and water from all the water sources and pipelines is being tested.
Eluru is a city and the district headquarters of West Godavari district in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. It is one of the 14 municipal corporations in the state, on the Tammileru river. The city is well known for its wool-pile carpets and hand woven products.