Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Hindustan Times, Eluru

Patients and their attendants at the district government hospital in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh after hundreds have been hospitalized due to an unidentified illness. (AP)



More than two days after a mysterious disease struck the people of several areas in Eluru town in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district, the authorities are still clueless about its cause.

The casualty ward of the government hospital at Eluru continued to be flooded with patients complaining of giddiness, seizures, convulsions and epilepsy even at 9 pm on Monday and ambulance sirens continued to blare in the hospital premises bringing more and more patients.

K Gangadhar (35), who complained of giddiness and headache after returning home from his two-wheeler garage at Padamata Veedhi area, had vomited within minutes of being brought to the hospital. “He was not in a position even to sit. He had convulsions and collapsed,” his sister said.

So was the case with 14-year old T Sekhar, who suffered severe headache and convulsions. “He was alright till afternoon. All of a sudden, he was crying complaining of headache and giddiness,” his mother Lakshmi said.

Jaya Deepthi (16), a Class 10 girl was gasping for breath and nurses at the hospital had put her on oxygen to help her breathe. “She was panicky as she developed convulsions and shivering,” said her sister-in-law who got her admitted to the hospital.

While the number of patients who were admitted till Sunday night were around 300, it rose to 471 by Monday night and is still counting.

“We have not come across such a strange phenomenon till now. Strangely, most of them are showing signs of recovery within hours of being administered medicines for symptomatic treatment. But more and more patients are getting admitted to the hospital for the same symptoms,” Dr T Geetha Prasadini, director of public health told Hindustan Times.

So far, there has been only casualty – that of a 45-year old patient Sridhar from Vidyanagar area, supposedly due to this mysterious disease. “He also got admitted with the same symptoms. He got cured by evening, but suddenly collapsed later. We are awaiting the post-mortem report to know the actual cause,” Dr Geetha said.

According to her, most of the patients who suffered from symptoms of mysterious disease were in the age group of 20-30 years, but there were around 65 children below 12 years of age. Some of the patients were sent to Vijayawada and Guntur hospitals for better treatment.

Several teams of medical experts, molecular biologists and public health experts have landed in Eluru to ascertain the exact cause of the disease. A team of doctors from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Mangalagiri, has already collected samples of blood, urine and saliva of the patients to find out the causes for the mysterious disease.

Dr Geetha said drinking water samples in 32 ward secretariat limits, from where the cases were mostly reported, were tested and reports of blood samples of the patients were normal. “Blood samples taken for Hb, CBP, LFT, RFT and GRBS- were normal and blood samples were inoculated, and reports are awaited. Viral markers for IgM ELISA, for Chikungunya, Dengue, HSV-2, and all samples reported negative. The CT scan reports were also normal,” she said.

The causes of the outbreak are not known yet. She said the cases are being reported in Eluru rural and Dendaluru apart from Eluru urban and all age groups are prone to the infection. The people who have been drinking treated water and mineral water were also infected, she said.

Blood samples of some patients have also been sent to Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad for examination. Similarly, experts from National Institute of Nutrition are also looking into the possible food contamination in the area.

Chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy visited the hospital on Monday and interacted with the patients and attendants and assured them of all help. He also reviewed the situation at a meeting with officials.

Later, addressing a review meeting at the zila parishad office here on Monday, Jagan directed the officials to be vigilant and ready to handle any situation. He enquired about the treatment being given to the patients who fell ill, and the measures being taken for the control of the situation.

He also enquired about the possible causes of the outbreak and about the medical tests and investigations that are being carried out on patients. He said a high ranking official of the Health Department should stay put to monitor the situation.

He instructed the officials to create awareness among the people to call emergency numbers 104 and 108 if anyone faces any problem. Medical assistance should be provided as early as possible once the call is received.

Meanwhile, Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan constituted a three-member expert team led by AIIMS emergency health care head Dr Jamshed Nair, National Institute of Virology expert Dr Avinash Devashtawar and NDCC deputy director Dr Sanketh Kulakarni. The team will be coming to Eluru on Tuesday to assess the situation.