Eluru’s Mysterious Illness: Mercury Found In Rice, Jagan Seeks Advice From Medical Experts

A week after the strange disease broke out in Andhra Pradesh’s Eluru, which has so far killed one person and sickened more than 600 people, analysis by various groups of experts found several abnormalities in the food they ate the victims. The state government is reviewing the reports and Andhra Pradesh’s Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy held a video conference with medical experts in Amaravati on Friday. Two people admitted with similar symptoms died on Dec. 10, but the state said they had other health complications.

The number of daily cases has dropped. On Friday, only four cases were reported, bringing the cumulative count to 613. Among them, 13 are in treatment, while the rest have been discharged. However, it is not yet clear what exactly caused the strange outbreak, the state government said while waiting for detailed reports.

What do the reports say?

> AIIMS and the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology found lead and nickel in blood samples from the victims, but found nothing in the water.

> The National Institute of Nutrition found traces of mercury in rice and pesticides and herbicide residues in excessive amounts in vegetables. He also found organophosphate residues in the blood, but said how they entered humans needs to be studied.

> A study of ambient air and water quality, carried out by the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board, did not reveal the presence of heavy metals in the water.

> The Institute of Preventive Medicine, in their analysis, found no heavy metals in the milk.

> Although water contamination is ruled out in the initial findings, the CM has asked experts to test drinking water samples repeatedly, as a private laboratory based in Vijayawada indicated that drinking water is supplied to areas such as the Gandhi colony, Ramachandra Rao Peta, Pension Line Area and JP Colony contained large amounts of various pesticide residues, thousands of times more than the permitted limits.

> Organochlorine and organophosphate poisoning can occur from the indiscriminate use of pesticides and insecticides.

> The state government plans to educate local farmers about organic farming.

> Experts are also investigating whether excessive use of chlorine and bleach powder in Covid-19 sanitation programs has led to the poisoning.

The state government has also formed a 21-member multidisciplinary committee, headed by Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney, to fully investigate the source of the infection.

On December 5, the first case of this disease was reported with symptoms such as seizures, vertigo, foam at the mouth. Soon, many people reported similar symptoms that required emergency medical intervention. In most cases, symptoms persisted for 10-15 minutes and patients could not remember what happened to them.

(With PTI inputs)