Eluru mystery illness: Officials rule out air, water as source of poisoning

Vegetable and fruit samples are being taken from two different markets in Eluru to find out the source of the poisoning, said a source.
Andhra CM Jagan interacting with patient
Andhra CM Jagan interacting with patient

Authorities in Andhra Pradesh are yet to confirm the source of heavy metal poisoning in Eluru residents, who took ill.  Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy reportedly expressed his disappointment with officials on Wednesday during the review meeting. Sources privy to the meeting said that the Chief Minister was miffed with the unanimous response of officials saying that they were “still analysing” the reports. Institutes like All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology are analysing the samples collected from the patients. However, nothing has been established conclusively. 

According to the Andhra government, traces of lead and nickel were found in 25 blood samples out of 45 analysed by AIIMS Delhi. Over 500 persons have fallen ill so far and one person has died due to the mystery illness. 

In the meeting which lasted for more than two hours on Wednesday, officials ruled out the possibility of lead and nickel poisoning through air and water. They are now looking for other suspected sources of the illness, which includes fruits and vegetables. Vegetable and fruit samples from two different markets in Eluru have been collected for the study, a source said.

Officials postulated a theory that the organochlorine and organophosphorus pesticides could have triggered the illness. But organophosphorus pesticides reportedly cause respiratory problems and the fatality rate would be higher, so this theory too was ruled out.

Speaking to TNM, West Godavari Collector Revu Mutyala Raju said that they have sent 40 additional samples on Wednesday for testing.  Among the few samples tested, 21 of them had elevated levels of lead, officials told the Chief Minister.

As per the latest medical bulletin issued on Tuesday, 578 had taken ill in Eluru. Seventy six patients are presently being treated in hospitals. Residents who took ill presented with sympoms such as epilepsy, nausea, forgetfulness, backache and headache. The bout of epilepsy lasts for 3-5 minutes, but does not recur.

Meanwhile, leader of Opposition, N Chandrababu Naidu wrote a letter to the Chief Minister questioning the government for not setting up a helpline. Naidu demanded the government to set up a 'special control room' and form 'Quick response teams' for immediate medical assistance to the victims. He demanded the government to immediately disclose the test results held so far. The former CM said that the presence of heavy metals would have a serious impact on the health of pregnant women, children and the elderly and hence, demanded that every resident in Eluru should be given electronic health cards. “Every patient should be monitored on a long-term basis. The best medical care should be provided with the help of national and international medical experts. A scientific study of the Eluru illness should be made in order to find out the root cause,” he wrote.

Inputs from Paul Oommen

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