'Mystery Illness' Kills One and Hospitalizes Hundreds in India, Patients Suffering Seizures

A mystery illness has killed at least one person and hospitalized hundreds in the city of Eluru, south-eastern India, since Saturday.

Health experts are now hunting for the source of the sickness after residents of the city, in Andhra Pradesh state, were taken to a local hospital over the weekend with a variety of symptoms including seizures, nausea and loss of consciousness.

Some 345 patients were admitted to Eluru Government Hospital with symptoms in the 48 hours prior to Monday afternoon local time. Most were between 20 and 40 years old, but at least 45 were children below the age of 12, Hindustan Times reported citing hospital officials.

Overnight, between Sunday and Monday, 28 people with symptoms were admitted to the Eluru Government Hospital, the Hindustan Times reported. Officials said a total of 180 patients have since been discharged after receiving treatment.

On Sunday, a 45-year-old man from Eluru died in hospital after showing symptoms. The Hindustan Times reported police took his remains back to the government hospital on Sunday night for an autopsy after it was initially taken home by family members.

CNN reported Dolla Joshi Roy, district surveillance officer of Eluru's West Godavari District, said the symptom of the condition included seizures, unconsciousness and nausea.

An unnamed medical officer at Eluru Government Hospital told The Indian Express: "The people who fell sick, especially the children, suddenly started vomiting after complaining of burning eyes. Some of them fainted or suffered bouts of seizures."

As the probe continues, authorities have said thousands of water samples will be tested as some of the patients were getting water from a common source, CNN reported.

The unidentified illness comes as the region continues to battle the COVID pandemic, which has been linked to more than 800,000 cases and more than 7,000 deaths in the state. India has recorded more than nine million COVID cases to date.

Alla Kali Krishna Srinivas, minister for health, family welfare and medical education for Andhra Pradesh, said according to The Indian Express: "All the patients are COVID-19 negative.

It is some mystery illness and only lab analysis will reveal what it is," Srinivas said.

Srinivas said: "We ruled out water contamination or air pollution as the cause after officials visited the areas where people fell sick. Water samples were sent for testing and no contamination was found."

Blood samples from patients were transferred to labs for analysis, and no viral infections were found, said Srinivas. He said that over 100 patients had been discharged from hospitals as of Sunday evening, and the remaining patients appeared stable.

Roy said the cause remains unknown, but investigations will also focus on food and milk.

India health care worker
A health worker, unrelated to the mystery illness, waits to collect swab samples at a temporarory collection centre in India, on October 1, 2020. The mystery illness has caused hundreds of hospitalizations and at least one death in the city of Eluru, south-eastern India, since December 5. NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty