At least 140 people, including children, were on Sunday hospitalised with an unexplained illness in the city of Eluru in West Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh, reported ANI.
While the exact reason behind their condition remained unknown, officials suspected it to be a case of water contamination, according to reports. Officials, however, added that they were awaiting results of the water samples sent for testing. District Collector R Muthyala Raju told The Indian Express that blood samples of patients were also collected to determine the cause of illness.
Patients were reportedly suffering from dizziness, headache and “epilepsy-type symptoms”, an unidentified doctor treating them at the Eluru Government General Hospital, told The Hindu. Most of the cases were reported from Kobbari Thota, Kothapeta, Toorpu Veedhi and Arundhati Peta areas, the newspaper reported.
The hospital’s superintendent, Mohan Rao, told ANI that the number of patients was on the rise. “From last night [Saturday] to this morning [Sunday], around 140 persons were admitted and discharged,” he added. “Symptoms include nausea and fainting. Reason for sudden [the] increase [in cases] is not yet known.”
Rao added that the patients were admitted after they complained of mild headaches and suffered convulsions, according to The New Indian Express. “In several cases, they fainted after vomiting,” he said. “Some of them had bone dislocations and muscular pains.”
The doctor said that all the patients were given emergency medical care, and 80% of them were in a stable condition.
He said that epidemiology and microbiology experts from Vijayawada will visit Eluru to determine the cause of illness. A team of psychiatrists and psychologists was also summoned to help patients, several of whom were distressed and anxious, he added.
“Some of the patients, who were discharged, said they did not know what had happened and that they were later informed they fainted after a bout of convulsions,” Rao said. “Most of them said they had consumed tap water as usual and started vomiting before fainting.”
An unidentified medical officer of the hospital told The Indian Express that the administration had arranged over 100 additional beds on a precautionary basis.
Meanwhile, Health Minister A Kali Krishna Srinivas visited the Eluru Government General Hospital on Sunday morning to take stock of the situation. He said that five patients were shifted to Vijayawada for better treatment as their condition was serious, according to The New Indian Express.
The Andhra Pradesh government set up medical camps in South Street, East Street, Arundhati Pet and other areas in Eluru where people fell sick, Srinivas added. He said the government also initiated door-to-door surveys to identify unreported cases, if any.
Besides, additional beds were readied at the Ashram Hospital and also in the Vijayawada Government hospital as a precautionary measure, the minister said, adding that about 108 emergency medical vehicles were on standby.
Opposition criticises government
Former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu criticised the government and accused the dispensation of neglecting the maintenance of water sources in the state.
“This is apathy of the Andhra Pradesh Government,” he said in a statement. “The drinking water bodies have not been cleaned since 18 months and due to that more than 150 have taken ill. Eluru is the health minister’s constituency and it is the irresponsible YSRCP Government’s collective lack of conscience and inability to govern yet again.”
In a series of tweets, Naidu also demanded an “impartial, full-fledged inquiry into the incident”.
Andhra Pradesh Governor Biswa Bhusan Harishchandran also expressed his concern and said he has directed officials to provide all necessary medical treatment to the patients.