Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Friday held a review meeting over the mystery illness that has spread in Eluru city claiming one life and affecting at least 350 people. Reddy directed officials to find out the exact cause of the outbreak.
The meeting was attended by doctors and experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) and Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT). The chief minister said corrective measures will be taken based on the final outcome of investigations and urged the experts to find out the exact cause of the disease.
He said it should be checked if the illness was due to water contamination or due to some other reason.
Senior officials informed the CM the presence of lead and nickel have been found in patients’ bodies and it might have been caused due to excessive use of pesticides in farms.
The officials said the number of cases have been declining and most patients are recovering within three-four hours.
WHO experts said they are surveying the areas from where people have fallen sick. They suspect bleach and chlorine used in sanitation programmes as part of COVID-19 prevention measures may also be the cause.
Doctors and experts from AIIMS said comprehensive tests are yet to be done, but primary investigations revealed that lead and nickel were present in high quantity in patients’ blood.
As Indians do have nickel in their bodies, the presence of lead might have caused the illness. Also, it was found that there is a significant drop in the level of lead in the patients’ bodies after 24 hours of falling sick. The process of recycling batteries or dumping/firing of broken batteries may also lead to the current situation. “We are also testing drinking water and milk samples and will come to a definite conclusion soon,” a doctor said.
Experts from AIIMS, Mangalagiri, said pesticides might have contaminated the organic chlorides, according to a primary finding.
Expert team from NIN, Hyderabad, said they have examined food, water, milk, urine and blood samples from the families of the sick and also taken samples of vegetables and essentials from the market. “We are conducting comprehensive tests. So far, there is no sign of danger. We shall submit a report on water, food, milk, urine and blood samples,” he said.
Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney, Principal Secretary of Health Department Anil Kumar Singhal, Andhra Pradesh Medical and Infrastructure Development Corporation Chairman Dr K Chandrashekar Reddy were also present.