Vijayawada: The mysterious disease that claimed one life and led to the hospitalisation of more than 500 people in Eluru town of West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh is likely caused by neuro-toxicity caused by heavy metals like lead and nickel, a preliminary study by the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Mangalagiri, has found.

The West Godavari district administration said the AIIMS-Mangalagiri authorities submitted a preliminary report to the Andhra Pradesh government's health department. The authorities have called for some more tests to corroborate the report.

The health commissioner, Katamaneni Bhaskar, said while they have tentatively identified the primary cause of the strange disease it is not yet clear what its source is and how and why it happened. He clarified that the chemicals were found in the bodies of the patients but not in water or food.

The AIIMS teams are collecting samples from the affected area and the head of AIIMS-Mangalagiri, Dr. Rajesh Kakkar, has identified water pollution as the cause of the illness in Eluru. He said that lead, a heavy metal in water, is the contaminant, while adding that industrial waste or water pollution may be caused by batteries. Most of the victims also suffered from neurological problems.

The AP government officials hope to get a clear picture of the situation in a day or two as experts are probing all angles to find out the root cause of the disease. They clarified that the mysterious disease was neither bacterial nor viral infection nor a contagious disease. It is a sudden onset of symptoms of convulsions and epilepsy which could be treated symptomatically, they added.

The teams of the World Health Organisation and AIIMS-Mangalagiri are also touring the affected areas to get first-hand information about the conditions of the patients.

On Tuesday, as many as 505 cases were reported from different parts of the town. Of them, 332 were discharged after treatment, the hospital authorities said.

The symptoms of the mysterious disease that left 340 people hospitalised in West Godavari district's Eluru town includes epileptic fits that last three-five minutes, forgetfulness, anxiety, vomiting, headache, and back pain, according to the report by the district collector.

Meanwhile, 22 freshwater samples were tested and the reports were normal. Around 52 blood samples were also tested and found to be normal. The cell count of 35 cerebral spinal fluid samples came back normal, too, while the culture‌ report is yet to come. Forty-five people had CT scans and results came back normal. Nine milk samples were tested and were found normal.

The district collector also conducted a house survey in which 62 village and ward secretariats participated. Health surveys were conducted on 57,863 households. Also, 56 doctors, including specialists, are treating victims and three microbiologists, 136 nurses, 117 FNOs, and 99 MNOs are on duty. Twenty ambulances have been deployed and 62 24x7 medical camps set up. Further, 445 beds were made available in four hospitals, including the government hospital in Eluru.

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