Eleven people in Andhra’s Chittoor district were hospitalised on Tuesday after consuming a ‘home-made remedy’ for COVID-19 which they had come across on TikTok. They had seen a video which suggested that eating ‘ummetha kaya’ -- the fruit of the poisonous Datura plant -- can prevent one from contracting COVID-19.
The incident occurred in Aalapalli Kotthur village, in Baireddypalli mandal of Chittoor district.
The TikTok video suggested that the spiky fruit – which resembles the now pervasive image of SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 – can be used to treat the disease, Baireddypalli Sub-Inspector (SI) Muni Swamy said.
He added that that so far, no one from the mandal has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Yet, the two families took the step out of the fear of the COVID-19 disease that has become widespread, he said.
After consuming the fruit on Tuesday morning, the 11 people were rushed to the Primary Health Centre in Baireddypalli for first aid, and then to the government hospital in Palamaner town. Palamaner hospital superintendent told reporters that the patients experienced atropinization – which is poisoning caused by atropine. The poisoning from the fruit led to increased heart rate, rise in body temperature, dryness in the mouth, and a pricking sensation in the skin.
Police said that the family members are now out of danger and were discharged from the hospital on Tuesday afternoon. However, they are unable to find the dangerous video or the person behind it. Police said that the victims were unable to find the video again, as it was something they had simply come across while scrolling through TikTok.
Earlier in February, in the same district, a 54-year-old man took his life, wrongly believing he was infected with the novel coronavirus despite doctors telling him otherwise. His family said he was afraid that he would end up infecting them and others in his village.
The incident seemed partly triggered by widespread misinformation on the internet, as his son said that the man saw a lot of videos on symptoms of COVID-19, and became convinced that he was affected.