As of Tuesday afternoon, as many as 505 cases were reported from different parts of Eluru. “Of them, 332 were discharged after being treated,” a hospital official said.(AP Photo)
As of Tuesday afternoon, as many as 505 cases were reported from different parts of Eluru. “Of them, 332 were discharged after being treated,” a hospital official said.(AP Photo)

Eluru: Traces of lead, nickel found in mystery disease patients

A preliminary study conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Mangalagiri, found that it had been caused by the ingestion of metals such as lead and nickel. AIIMs authorities submitted a preliminary report to this effect to the state medical and health department on Monday night.
Hindustan Times, Eluru | By Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
PUBLISHED ON DEC 09, 2020 07:37 AM IST

The mystery disease that led to one death and the hospitalisation of more than 500 people with symptoms ranging from giddiness and convulsions to epilepsy in the Andhra Pradesh coastal town of Eluru has turned out to be neurotoxicity caused by the presence of heavy metals.

A preliminary study conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Mangalagiri, found that it had been caused by the ingestion of metals such as lead and nickel. AIIMs authorities submitted a preliminary report to this effect to the state medical and health department on Monday night.

The authorities have called for some more tests to corroborate the finding. Neurotoxicity refers to damage to the brain or peripheral nervous system caused by exposure to natural or man-made toxic substances.

“We have tentatively identified the primary cause of this strange phenomenon, but it is not yet clear what its source is and how and why it has happened. For instance, the chemicals are found in the body of the patients, but not in either water or any food substance {consumed by them},” state health commissioner Katamaneni Bhaskar, who has been monitoring the situation in Eluru, told Hindustan Times.

An expert team from the Centre led by AIIMS emergency health care head Dr Jamshed Nair, National Institute of Virology expert Dr Avinash Devashtawar and National Centre for Disease Control (NDCC) deputy director Dr Sanketh Kulkarni was expected to travel to Eluru on Tuesday evening to take stock of the situation.

“We are hoping to get a clear picture of the situation in a day or two as experts are probing all angles to find out the root cause of the disease,” Bhaskar said.

He clarified that the disease was not a bacterial or viral infection nor a contagious disease. “It is a sudden onset of symptoms of convulsions and epilepsy which could be treated symptomatically,” he said.

Officials at the sanitation wing, food safety division and drinking water supply department of Eluru municipality have been collecting samples from neighbourhoods like South Street, North Street, West Street, Arundhatipet and Ashok Nagar to determine the presence of any contaminants. The narrow lanes of these areas are known for their garbage dumps and open drains.

“Every house has a drinking water connection, but you can notice drinking water pipelines are passing through sewerage lines. There is no elected body for the municipality and so, no official pays any attention to these problems,” said Chode Venkata Ratnam, former deputy mayor of the Eluru municipal corporation.

Sai Ram, 18, a resident of South Street, who had undergone treatment in the government hospital for two days, said he did not know what happened to him all of a sudden. “I was playing with my friends in my backyard when I suddenly collapsed and developed fits. I never had this problem before,” he said.

Rama Krishna, 25,, a physically challenged man, returned home after treatment, but the symptoms surface now and then. “He had an epilepsy problem in the past and it has recurred now,” his mother, CVL Appayamma, said.

Teams of the World Health Organization (WHO) and AIIMS, Mangalagiri, are visiting the areas to get the firsthand information about the condition of the patients.

As of Tuesday afternoon, as many as 505 cases were reported from different parts of Eluru. “Of them, 332 were discharged after being treated,” a hospital official said.

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