Traces of lead and nickel were Wednesday found in blood samples of 15 more people affected by a mystery illness in Andhra Pradesh’s Eluru. A day before, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) New Delhi, had found traces of the heavy metals in 10 victims. The AP government had sent 45 samples to AIIMS for testing.
The source of the contamination is still not known.
The West Godavari district administration has deployed 62 medical teams to monitor residents in Eluru and nearby areas. A statement from the Chief Minister’s Office stated that so far, 578 cases of the mystery illness have been reported, of which 471 have been discharged while 76 are still under treatment. Thirty people who had serious symptoms were shifted to Vijayawada Government Hospital, of whom seven have been discharged while 23 remain under observation. Medical and relief teams have conducted two rounds of household surveys to monitor residents’ health.
Various institutes are engaged in testing water and consumable samples from the area for heavy metals, pathogens and pesticides.
While AIIMS, New Delhi is testing blood, water and milk samples for heavy metals, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, is testing for pathogens. National Institute for Nutrition, Hyderabad, is testing samples of urine, blood, water, vegetables, fruits and other consumables for traces of heavy metals and pesticides.
The Indian Institute of Chemical Technology is testing water and blood samples for traces of pesticides. A two-member WHO team is in Eluru to monitor the situation. Culture tests negative for all known pathogens are being conducted. During the household survey, water samples were collected and tested, but no traces of lead or pesticides were found.
The state government’s report states that convulsions and the subsequent decrease of lead content in the blood of patients after they were admitted to hospitals indicates this is a case of acute exposure and not chronic exposure. This means that so far, the exposure seems to be a one-time incident.
Even citizens who regularly consume mineral water have been impacted. Also, the illness is not limited to the Eluru Municipal area, and cases have been reported from Eluru Rural Mandal and Denduluru Mandal too, where the source of water supply is not the municipal corporation.
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