At least 300 persons –– including several children, some as young as 4 years old –– have taken ill in Eluru in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh since Saturday evening. While officials initially suspected contaminated drinking water or air pollution to be the cause, both were ruled out by Sunday evening. Health Minister A Kali Krishna Srinivas said blood samples and swabs have been sent for lab analysis, with reports awaited.
Opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has insisted that drinking water contamination caused the people to fall ill, even though the government denies it. TDP chief and former CM N Chandrababu Naidu has demanded “an impartial, full-fledged inquiry into the incident”.
With more than 250 people now affected, the situation in #Eluru is worsening. I demand an impartial, full-fledged inquiry into the incident. Floods, cyclone or healthcare, the YSRCP Govt has been caught napping in emergency situations. (1/3)
— N Chandrababu Naidu #StayHomeSaveLives (@ncbn) December 6, 2020
“We ruled out water contamination or air pollution as the cause after officials visited the areas where people fell sick. Water samples were sent for testing and no contamination was found. Blood samples of the patients have been sent to labs. No viral infection has been detected. All the patients are COVID-19 negative. It is some mystery illness and only lab analysis will reveal what it is,” Srinivas said.
“All the patients are out of danger. Of the 300-odd affected, about 125 have been discharged by Sunday evening,” the health minister added.
Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy will visit Eluru Monday morning to take stock of the situation. Governor Biswa Bhusan Harichandan too expressed concern over the incident and enquired with the local administration about the condition of those admitted to hospitals.
The Governor directed officials of medical and health departments to find out the reason behind such a large number of people suddenly falling ill, and take measures to avoid a repeat.
The people who fell sick belong to several societies, such as Ashok Nagar and Arundhatipet, in Eluru town, where a case of contamination of drinking water was reported 10 days ago. Health Minister Srinivas said teams of doctors have been rushed from Vijayawada to assist local doctors and also investigate the cause of the illness. “Medical camps are being set up to provide treatment to the patients. Door-to-door survey is being conducted to monitor their health,” Srinivas said.
A medical officer at Eluru Government Hospital said the patients complained of burning eyes.
“The people who fell sick, especially the children, suddenly started vomiting after complaining of burning eyes. Some of them fainted or suffered bouts of seizures. Some were in critical condition when they were brought in on Saturday, but now all of them are safe,” the medical officer said. Over 100 additional beds have been kept ready at Eluru Government Hospital in case more patients come in. Five people were shifted to the government hospital in Vijayawada for better treatment.
District Collector Mutyala Raju Revu said health officials have started a door-to-door survey of the affected areas to check for water contamination as well as to identify affected persons who did not go to hospitals fearing it was Covid-19.
Meanwhile, the TDP has criticised the government for neglecting drinking water sources. “This is apathy of the AP government. Drinking water bodies have not been cleaned for 18 months. Eluru is the health minister’s constituency and it is the irresponsible YSRCP government’s collective lack of conscience and inability to govern that has led to the incident,” TDP chief Naidu said in a statement.
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