Mystery Illness Sweeps Through India, Infecting Over 300 People This Weekend

As the world fights the novel coronavirus pandemic, it appears that India may soon have another health crisis on its hands as hundreds of people have reportedly been infected with a "mystery illness."

According to The Indian Express, around 300 people have reported symptoms of the unknown disease in the Eluru region in Andhra Pradesh. Of the 300 infected, around 140 were later admitted to the hospital because of the concerning symptoms. According to doctors, these include nausea, seizures, and even falling unconscious. A large portion of those who have fallen ill are children, with some as young as 4 years old.

"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. Some were in critical condition when they were brought in on Saturday, but now all of them are safe," one medical officer said.

Though some have theorized that the sick patients were suffering from COVID-19, all tests have come back negative. One bright spot is that doctors have said that many of those treated at the hospital recovered quickly, though a handful had to be taken to other facilities for more in-depth care. As a precaution, a number of beds at Eluru Government Hospital have been freed up in case the crisis worsens.

Doctors work at a hospital in India.
Getty Images | Chris Jackson

At present, health experts are now scrambling to figure out what exactly is causing the disease. Andhra Pradesh Health Minister Alla Kali Krishna Srinivas said that blood samples did not find any evidence of a viral infection, which has eased fears about a second potential epidemic.

However, the origin still remains a mystery, especially after several early hypotheses have reportedly been disproven. For example, the two primary suggestions -- water contamination and air pollution -- were both ruled out by the authorities by Sunday evening.

"We ruled out water contamination or air pollution as the cause after officials visited the areas where people fell sick," Srinivas said, explaining that samples of water in the area had been analyzed and were found to be normal.

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

However, some remain unconvinced by the Indian government's response and have demanded an investigation, including retesting the drinking water.

"I demand an impartial, full-fledged inquiry into the incident. Floods, cyclone or healthcare, the YSRCP Govt has been caught napping in emergency situations," CM N Chandrababu Naidu, who currently serves as the head of the opposition Telugu Desam Party, wrote in a tweet.

The crisis comes as India continues its own battle with COVID-19, which has infected nearly 10 million and claimed over 140,000 lives across the country.