Organochlorine substances like DDT thought to have triggered mysterious death, mass infection in Andhra Pradesh

The mystery disease saw people suddenly falling unconscious after suffering from fits and nausea.

Press Trust of India December 09, 2020 11:14:45 IST
Organochlorine substances like DDT thought to have triggered mysterious death, mass infection in Andhra Pradesh

Organochlorine is being pin-pointed as the cause of a mysterious infection affecting hundreds of people in Andhra Pradesh. File image/Reuters

With a mystery disease here baffling health experts and the government alike, preliminary analysis of various test reports have almost established the role of organochlorine substances in the infection that has left one dead and over 450 infected since Saturday. Multiple teams of experts from premier scientific institutions of the country are on to the job to determine the exact cause of the disease in Eluru city of Andhra Pradesh. Organochlorine pesticides are chlorinated hydrocarbons used in agriculture and mosquito control. The compounds include DDT that is widely used in anti-mosquito fogging.

"Mostly yes, but we are waiting for the laboratory report (for confirmation)," a top official of the Medical and Health Department told PTI here on Monday, when asked about organochlorine being the disease-triggering agent.

BJP MP G V L Narasimha Rao, after talking to experts at the AIIMS, New Delhi, was the first to suspect that poisonous organochlorine substances could be the most likely cause of the mysterious disease.

With water contamination ruled out as the cause of the disease spread, and also other tests turning out normal, the medical teams are now focusing on other chemical agents that could have led to the outbreak. Teams of experts from the National Institute of Nutrition and Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad reached Eluru on Monday and collected various samples for analysis. Water and milk samples were also sent to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad for analysis of heavy metal content, sources in the Medical and Health Department said.

With all the incoming patients turning negative for coronavirus , the authorities have heaved a sigh of relief.

On the request of the state government, a team of experts from the World Health Organisation in New Delhi, as well as another team drafted by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will be arriving in Eluru on Tuesday "on an urgent visit" for a study and possibly determine the cause of the mysterious disease. A team from the Indian Council of Medical Research is also expected.

Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy visited the Government General Hospital here and spoke to the affected persons, assuring them all help. Addressing a high-level review meeting later, he directed the officials to be on full alert and prepared to handle any situation.

A team of doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences from Mangalagiri visited the hospital and collected blood samples from the patients for a thorough examination. So far 263 people had been discharged from hospital after treatment while another 171 have been admitted as in-patients. Another 17 patients were referred to hospitals in Vijayawada and Guntur for better medicare, according to official data.

The disease, which first surfaced in the One-Town area in Eluru city, has now spread to the adjoining rural parts of Eluru and Denduluru, though the number of affected there was far lesser.

Earlier, the mystery disease saw people suddenly falling unconscious after suffering from fits and nausea. The symptoms, according to GGH doctors, included a bout of epilepsy for 3-5 minutes, memory loss for a few minutes, anxiety, vomiting, headache and back pain.

The disease claimed the life of 45-year-old Sridhar on Sunday.

As per a report presented by West Godavari district Collector R Mutyalaraju, the precise cause of the disease could not be established yet as blood tests and CT (brain) scans showed everything as normal.

The cell count of 35 cerebral spinal fluid samples was also normal, but the culture report is yet to come.

Meanwhile, TDP general secretary and MLC Nara Lokesh wrote a letter to Union Health Minister Harshvardhan, requesting the Centre to immediately intervene and monitor the 'health crisis' in Eluru.

He wanted the Centre to declare a health emergency in the city, alleging the state government has been slow to react.

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