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Health officials and experts are still baffled by a mysterious illness that has left more than 500 people hospitalized and one person dead in the South Indian state from Andhra Pradesh.
The disease was first detected on Saturday night in Eluru, an ancient city famous for its hand-woven products. People started convulsing without warning, said Geeta Prasadini, director of public health.

Since then, symptoms ranging from nausea and anxiety to loss of consciousness have been reported in 546 hospitalized patients. Many have recovered and returned home, while 148 are still being treated, said Dasari Nagarjuna, a government spokesman.

Teams of experts from the best scientific institutes in India have arrived in the city. Different theories have been suggested and are being tested. The most recent hypothesis is the contamination of food by pesticides.

“But no one knows,” Prasadini admitted.

The Mysterious Disease of India
A patient is helped by others out of an ambulance at the district government hospital in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh state, India, on December 8, 2020. (AP)
The Mysterious Disease of India
A man carries a young patient at the district government hospital in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh state, India, on December 7, 2020. (AP)
What confuses the experts is that there does not appear to be any common link among the hundreds of people who have become ill. All patients tested negative for COVID-19 and other viral diseases such as dengue, chikungunya or herpes. They are not related to each other. They do not all live in the same area. They are of different age groups, including about 70 children, but very few are elderly.
A young patient is wheelchair-bound to the district government hospital in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh state, India. (AP)
Patients and their passersby are cared for at the district government hospital in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh state, India. (AP)

Initially, contaminated water was suspected. But the prime minister’s office confirmed that people who do not use the municipal water supply have also become ill and that initial tests of the water samples did not reveal any harmful chemicals.

A 45-year-old man with the single name Sridhar was hospitalized with symptoms resembling epilepsy and died Sunday night, doctors said. Prasadini said his autopsy did not shed any light on the cause of death.

The hypothesis currently being tested is that people ate pesticide-contaminated vegetables made from organic compounds that contain phosphorus. But this is an “assumption” based on the fact that such pesticides are commonly used in the area and not on any evidence, Prasadini said.

He said experts were running tests to see if pesticides had contaminated fish ponds or spilled on vegetables.

Opposition leader N. Chandrababu Naidu required on Twitter a “full and impartial investigation of the incident”.

The state of Andhra Pradesh is among the worst affected by COVID-19, with more than 800,000 cases detected. The health system in the state, like the rest of India, has been affected by the virus.

A stock photo of the Andhra Pradesh region, India. The area has reported a mysterious illness. (AP)

– Reported with Associated Press




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