"Burning Eyes" And Bouts Of Seizures: 300 Hospitalized With Mystery Illness In India

A Covid-19 patient being transported to a hospital in New Delhi. Exposure Visuals / Shutterstock.com

At least 300 people have been hospitalized with an as-yet-unidentified illness in the city of Eluru in India, India Health Minister A Kali Krishna Srinivas has confirmed.

Since Saturday evening, hundreds of people – including several children and young children – have been admitted to the hospital following symptoms ranging from vomiting to seizures.

“The people who fell sick, especially the children, suddenly started vomiting after complaining of burning eyes," a medical officer at Eluru Government Hospital told The Indian Express. "Some of them fainted or suffered bouts of seizures. Some were in critical condition when they were brought in on Saturday, but now all of them are safe."

Other symptoms include anxiety, nausea, and loss of consciousness, according to AP News. So far, one 45-year-old man was admitted to the Government General Hospital in Eluru with seizures and narcolepsy and has since died on Sunday evening, the only reported death related to the illness. Meanwhile, 135 patients were discharged on Sunday.

Though India has been hit hard by the virus at 9.68 million cases so far, Covid-19 doesn't appear to be related to the illness, with all patients testing negative for the disease, according to the Health Minister. Initially, it was suspected that the illness was caused by contaminated drinking water, though Srinivas says they have now ruled that out following investigation. 

“We ruled out water contamination or air pollution as the cause after officials visited the areas where people fell sick. Water samples were sent for testing and no contamination was found. Blood samples of the patients have been sent to labs. No viral infection has been detected," Srinivas told The Indian Express. "It is some mystery illness and only lab analysis will reveal what it is."

Though the government claims the illness is not related to contaminated drinking water, the opposition party Telugu Desam Party are unconvinced, going as far as questioning whether there was a cover-up.

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"Shocked and enraged at the AP Government's apathy towards people. About 150 people, mostly children, have taken ill after drinking contaminated water in Eluru because the irresponsible Government hasn't cared to clean local drinking water bodies for the last 18 months," leader of the opposition Nara Chandrababu Naidu said.

The former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh state said the incident is just the "tip of an iceberg", adding on Twitter that "the Govt's negligence & the deterioration of healthcare services across AP stands exposed today. It's a shame for any Govt if it can't provide basic necessities like safe & clean drinking water to our people."

The government continues to investigate the cause of the illness, surveying the population and investigating whether others may have not reported their illness believing it to be Covid-19

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