Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Andhra Pradesh is grappled by the fear of a mystery disease. In Eluru town of West Godavari district, around 345 people have been hospitalised after experiencing severe symptoms like seizures, epilepsy, vomiting and frothing in the mouth. A majority of the patients include children as young as four years old. A 45-year-old male patient has been reported dead till now from the mysterious illness.
The Mystery Disease
The yet-to-be-identified illness has affected hundreds in Eluru in the last two days. Doctors announced that the patients are experiencing a diverse range of symptoms – from nausea to losing consciousness – which has not been associated yet to any known disease. Incidentally, all of these patients have tested negative for COVID-19.
“The people who fell sick, especially the children, suddenly started vomiting after complaining of burning sensation in their eyes. Some of them fainted or suffered bouts of seizures,” a medical officer at Eluru Government Hospital told The Indian Express.
Local doctors and medical experts from Vijayawada are desperately looking into the possible cause of the disease to expedite the course of treatment. Initially, air pollution or contaminated drinking water was being suspected as probable causes. These assumptions were ruled out after officials tested water samples from the area and assessed the air quality. However, it must be mentioned here that some of the affected areas, like Ashok Nagar and Arundhatipet in Eluru, had reported a case of water contamination around 10 days ago.
Preliminary blood tests have not shown any signs of viral infection in patients. Their blood samples and swabs have been sent to the diagnostic laboratory for more detailed analysis.
Fortunately, over a hundred people have been discharged so far after their condition improved.
Politicisation of the mystery disease
On Monday, state Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has interacted with almost all the patients of the mystery disease. He paid a visit to the Eluru Government Hospital where patients are being treated since Saturday. Reddy also assured the caregivers and health workers of full-fledged support from the government. An emergency meeting has been called between the CM and chief officials to discuss the control strategy for this sudden disease.
Andhra Pradesh Health Minister A Kali Krishna Srinivas informed, “Medical camps are being set up to provide treatment to the patients. Door-to-door survey is being conducted to monitor their health.” District Collector Mutyala Raju Revu added that the door-to-door survey will ensure that no affected person is left out, even if they avoid going to the hospital fearing their illness as COVID-19 infection.
Meanwhile, chief opposition (Telugu Desam Party) leader and former CM N Chandrababu Naidu cited the ruling government’s neglect of drinking water sources as the main cause of the disease.
He alleged that the water bodies in the area have not been cleaned in over 18 months. Naidu vehemently accused the YSRCP government of lack of foresight and poor management of resources. In a tweet, he demanded an ‘impartial, full-fledged inquiry’ into the mystery disease that has terrorised the town.
With more than 250 people now affected, the situation in #Eluru is worsening. I demand an impartial, full-fledged inquiry into the incident. Floods, cyclone or healthcare, the YSRCP Govt has been caught napping in emergency situations. (1/3)
— N Chandrababu Naidu #StayHomeSaveLives (@ncbn) December 6, 2020
COVID-19 situation in Andhra Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh is one of the worst COVID-affected states in India with a total of 8.71 lakh cases till now. At present, the state ranks third highest in India is case count. With the sudden advent of the mystery disease, the state administration is faced with an additional challenge.
Without the results of detailed lab analysis, nothing can be predicted about the nature of the disease at the moment. For faster response to an emergency, call centres have been set up at the Eluru Municipal Office. Residents experiencing any kind of symptoms like seizures or fainting can contact at the helpline numbers – 9154565529 and 9154592617.