Eluru mystery illness: Govt says pesticide residues in water caused outbreak

The town has returned to normalcy, with no new cases reported in the past three days.

Eluru: The outbreak of the mysterious disease in West Godavari district’s Eluru was caused by the pesticide residues in drinking water, the Andhra Pradesh government on Wednesday.  The town has returned to normalcy, with no new cases reported in the past three days.

The main reason has been revealed in a video conference held by chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy with representatives of various research institutes that conducted independent studies on the outbreak of the disease.

Representatives of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) of Delhi and Mangalagiri, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI), National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and National Institute of Virology (NIV) presented their findings during the video conference.

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While experts from AIIMS-Delhi reported the presence of traces of heavy metals like lead and nickel in the blood samples of the affected persons and also in milk, NEERI scientists reported the presence of mercury in the surface water beyond permissible limits. 

“We need to examine drinking water, vegetables and food crops over a period of time to find out how exactly these pesticides had entered the human body,” an official release from the chief minister’s office, quoting the study of the AIIMS-Delhi.

However, these two institutes along with others, disclosed that the drinking water samples had high quantities of organo-chlorine pesticides, which could have entered the bodies of the people through the food cycle.

Jagan Mohan Reddy entrusted AIIMS-Delhi and IICT with the responsibility of making a detailed study in this regard and suggest steps to prevent the recurrence of such mysterious diseases in future. Jagan also directed the officials to set up land in every district and tests should be conducted on samples of food, drinking water and soil should be tested regularly so that corrective measures could be taken.

Besides, the chief minister instructed the Chief Secretary to prepare an action plan for this and said incidents like Eluru should not be repeated in the future. He said the focus should be laid on organic methods and organic farming through Rythu Bharosa Kendras.

Meanwhile, the civic authorities told the chief minister that all steps had been taken to ensure the supply of safe drinking water to the people in Eluru town.

The illness was first reported on December 5 with symptoms like seizures, giddiness, froth in the mouth. Symptoms like fainting spells, headache, anxiety, headache, back pain, and vomiting were in the further reported cases. 

Initial speculations pointed at possible water contamination in the area but later reports by various organizations noted several abnormalities–lead and nickel in blood samples of the victims, traces of mercury in rice, pesticides and herbicide residues in vegetables, among others.

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