More than 350 people have been hospitalised, and one person has died, following an outbreak of an unidentified illness in the town of Eluru in India’s southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
Officials are investigating the cause of the illness, which is said to have a wide range of symptoms like nausea, fits, burning eyes and causing people to fall unconscious.
A 45-year-old man, admitted to hospital with symptoms of nausea and epilepsy, died on Sunday evening [December 6].
A medical officer at Eluru Government Hospital said, “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, but now all of them are safe.”
The first person was hospitalised on Saturday evening [December 5]. Initially, officials suspected drinking contaminated water or air pollution, but both have since been ruled out.
COVID-19 is not the cause of these hospitalisations, either, as all the patients tested negative for coronavirus.
“We ruled out water contamination or air pollution as the cause after officials visited the areas where people fell sick. Water samples were sent for testing and no contamination was found,” said the State’s Health Minister Alla Kali Krishna Srinivas.
“Blood samples of the patients have been sent to labs. No viral infection has been detected. All the patients are COVID-19 negative. It is some mystery illness and only lab analysis will reveal what it is.
“All the patients are out of danger. Of the 300-odd affected, about 125 have been discharged by Sunday evening,” he added.
Health officials have reportedly begun a door-to-door survey of the affected areas to check for water contamination.
Opposition party Telugu Desam has called for an impartial investigation into the matter. They believe the mystery illness is a result of contaminated water, and that the government has mismanaged the area and lead to these illnesses.
“Can there be a more unfortunate and bigger failure than this? The Eluru water contamination incident calls for a declaration of Health Emergency in Andhra Pradesh. Enough,” tweeted the President of Teluga Desam, N Chandrababu Naidu.
“The Eluru incident is just the tip of an iceberg. The Govt’s negligence & the deterioration of healthcare services across AP stands exposed today. It’s a shame for any Govt if it can’t provide basic necessities like safe & clean drinking water to our people”
This illness comes as India battles the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been severe for the country. India has the world’s second-highest confirmed total caseload for the virus, after the United States of America.
To date, the country has had 9 677 203 confirmed cases and 140 590 deaths. Andhra Pradesh is one of the worst-affected states, and has the country’s third-highest case count of COVID-19, reports the BBC.