The Andhra Pradesh government on Friday formed a 21-member multi-disciplinary committee to investigate the cause of the undiagnosed illness in Eluru city, The Indian Express reported. More than 600 people have fallen ill since earlier this month.
The disease has so far caused one death. People suddenly fell unconscious after suffering fits and nausea from the night of December 5. The symptoms included a bout of epilepsy, memory loss for a few minutes, anxiety, vomiting, headache and back pain. Thirteen new cases of the disease were recorded in Eluru on Thursday, India Today reported.
A statement from the government said that the committee would also suggest remedial measures to prevent such an occurrence in the future. The panel was asked to immediately submit a detailed plan of action for the same.
The committee comprises experts from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the World Health Organization, Indian Council for Medical Research, National Institute of Nutrition, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, National Centre for Disease Control and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, according to The Hindu.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney will lead the panel. Principal Secretary (Health and Family Welfare) Anil Kumar Singhal will be the committee’s member-convenor.
A unidentified member of the panel told the newspaper that the experts have been visiting the affected areas and speaking to the patients and their families. “The high-level committee will visit the GGH [Government General Hospital] and hold discussions with the doctors,” the member added.
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Experts are looking at water contamination as one of of the causes of the disease. Retired bureaucrat EAS Sarma wrote to Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy, suggesting that coated Polyvinyl chloride or PVC pipes used for supplying drinking water may have caused the contamination, according to the news channel.
Officials investigating the disease also suspect that excessive use of chlorine and bleaching powder for coronavirus sanitation drives may have contaminated the water, making people sick.
Earlier this week, the Andhra Pradesh government had said that traces of nickel and lead found in the blood samples of patients were established to be the root cause of the undiagnosed disease. The blood samples were examined by a team of experts from AIIMS Delhi. The source of these particles, however, remains unknown.