The mysterious disease that claimed one life and led to the hospitalisation of more than 500 people with complaints of epilepsy, convulsions, seizures and giddiness in Andhra Pradesh’s coastal town of Eluru was a case of “neuro-toxicity” caused by heavy metals like lead and nickel, a preliminary study by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Mangalagiri has found.
The AIIMS authorities submitted a preliminary report to the state medical and health department on Monday night. The authorities have called for some more tests to corroborate the report.
State health commissioner KatamaneniBhaskar reported “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 were found in the bodies of the patients but not in either water or any other food substance.”
As per the information, A three-member expert team from the Centre led by AIIMS emergency health care head DrJamshed Nair, National Institute of Virology expert DrAvinashDevashtawar and NDCC deputy director DrSankethKulakarni is expected to reach Eluru in the evening to assess 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 mysterious disease was neither 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 of sanitation wing, food safety division and drinking water supply department of Eluru municipality have been collecting samples from various localities like South Street, North Street, West Street, Arundhatipet and Ashok Nagar areas to find out whether they have any contamination.
There is panic in these localities which lack basic sanitation facilities – the narrow lanes are stinking with open drains and garbage dumps but people are hardly bothered about the conditions.
ChodeVenkataRatnam, former deputy mayor of Eluru municipal corporation highlight the concern that “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 municipality and so, no official pays any attention to these problems.”
A victim – Rama Krishna (25), a physically challenged man, returned home after treatment, but the symptoms continue to surface now and then. “He had an epilepsy problem in the past and it has recurred now,” his mother C V L Appayamma said.
The teams of World Health Organisation and that of AIIMS, Mangalagiri, are also touring the affected areas to get firsthand information about the conditions of the patients.
As on Tuesday afternoon, as many as 505 cases have been reported from different parts of the town. “Of them, 332 were discharged after treatment,” hospital authorities said.