A ward at a hospital in Vijayawada where patients from Eluru were admitted for treatment after they suffered from mystery illness.(PTI)
A ward at a hospital in Vijayawada where patients from Eluru were admitted for treatment after they suffered from mystery illness.(PTI)

Eluru mystery illness: Mercury found in rice, Jagan seeks counsel of medical experts

While a Vijayawada lab hinted at water contamination, AIIMS and Institute of Chemical Technology found food contamination.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh
UPDATED ON DEC 12, 2020 09:10 AM IST

A week after the strange illness broke out in Andhra Pradesh’s Eluru which has so far killed one and sickened over 600 people, analysis carried out by various group of experts found several abnormalities in the food that the victims consumed. The state government is going through the reports and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy o Friday held a video conference with medical experts in Amaravati. Two persons admitted with similar symptoms died on December 10 but the state said they had other health complications.

The number of daily cases has come down. On Friday, only four cases were reported taking the cumulative tally to 613. Among them, 13 are under treatment while the rest have been discharged. However, it’s not yet clear what exactly caused the strange outbreak, the state government said as it is waiting for detailed reports.

What are the reports saying?

> AIIMS and Indian Institute of Chemical Technology found lead and nickel in blood samples of the victims, but they didn’t find anything in the water.

> National Institute of Nutrition found traces of mercury in rice and pesticides and herbicide residues in excess quantities in vegetables. It also found residues of organophosphorous in blood, but said it has to be studied how they entered the humans.

> A study of ambient air quality and water, conducted by the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board, revealed no presence of heavy metal in water.

> The Institute of Preventive Medicine, in its analysis, found no heavy metal in milk.

> Though water contamination is being ruled out in the initial findings, the CM has asked experts to test drinking water samples repeatedly as a Vijayawada-based private laboratory indicated that the drinking water supplied to areas like Gandhi Colony, Ramachandra Rao Peta, Pension Line Area and J P Colony contained high quantities of various pesticide residues, thousands of times more than the permissible limits.

> Organochlorine and organophosphorous poisoning can occur from indiscriminate use of pesticides and insecticides.

> The state government is planning to educate local farmers on organic farming.

> The experts are also probing whether the excessive use of chlorine and bleaching powder in Covid-19 sanitation programmes has led to the poisoning.

The state government has also constituted a 21-member multi-disciplinary committee, headed by Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney, to probe the source of the infection thoroughly.

On December 5, the first case of this illness with symptoms like seizures, giddiness, froth in mouth was reported. Soon, many people reported similr symptoms needing emergency medical intervention. In most of the cases, symptoms persisted for 10-15 minutes and the patients could not recollect what happened to them.

(With PTI inputs)

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