• Residents in the town of Eluru in India showed strange symptoms, including fainting and frothing
  • Health officials ruled out drinking water contamination as the cause
  • Experts are now looking into chemical poisoning and mass hysteria

A mystery illness has hit a town in India Saturday evening, infecting at least 300 residents and killing one.

The illness struck on Saturday when 45 people from four different localities in Eluru, in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, showed symptoms such as fainting, seizures and frothing at the mouth. A medical officer at a local hospital said some patients complained of “burning eyes.”

Many were rushed to local medical facilities, including 46 children — some as young as 4 years old — and 70 women. A patient receiving treatment at a government hospital in Eluru died. Authorities did not disclose any details about the victim, Times of India reported.

“We are watching the health condition of patients who fell sick at Eluru,” Dr. Suhasini of the District Selection Committee for Medical and Health Department said. “In my 25 years of service I have never seen such cases.”

Officials initially suspected that the illness might have been caused by contaminated drinking water or air pollution. Both have been ruled out Sunday evening. However, the Opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) insisted that the illness was caused by drinking water contamination.

N. Chandrababu Naidu, TDP chief, urged the government to conduct an “impartial” investigation. He also urged officials to declare a health emergency in Andhra Pradesh, The Indian Express reported.

Health Minister A. Kali Krishna Srinivas said blood samples and swabs have been sent for lab analysis. The health minister said officials did not detect a viral infection, and all patients tested negative for the coronavirus.

“With more than 250 people now affected, the situation in #Eluru is worsening. I demand an impartial, full-fledged inquiry into the incident. Floods, cyclone or healthcare, the YSRCP Govt has been caught napping in emergency situations,” he wrote on Twitter.

“The #Eluru incident is just the tip of an iceberg. The Govt's negligence & the deterioration of healthcare services across AP stands exposed today. It's a shame for any Govt if it can't provide basic necessities like safe & clean drinking water to our people,” Naidu added.

The people who fell ill lived in areas where drinking water contamination was reported 10 days ago. Health experts are looking into other angles, including chemical poisoning, contaminated milk, and mass hysteria, though reports didn't elaborate on the third angle.

India's coronavirus outbreak is the second worst in the world and hospitals and graveyards have begun to overflow
India's coronavirus outbreak is the second worst in the world and hospitals and graveyards have begun to overflow AFP / Sajjad HUSSAIN