Medical experts in India are baffled by a mysterious illness that has left more than 500 people sick and at least one dead after the new affliction was first reported Saturday.
Scores of people in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh have been hospitalized since the illness was first detected in Eluru.
Geeta Prasadini, the state’s director of public health, said some people started convulsing without warning. Other symptoms include nausea, anxiety and loss of consciousness.
A report Tuesday suggested that traces of lead and nickel found in the patients’ blood samples may be the cause of the illness, but public health officials are still searching for a definitive link between all patients. “Nobody knows,” Prasadini said.
More on the India illness: Unidentified disease in India leaves hundreds hospitalized, 1 dead
Here’s what we know:
How many people are sick in India?
Since Saturday, at least 546 people have been admitted to hospitals. Government spokesperson Dasari Nagarjuna said most have recovered and are back home, but 148 people are still being treated.
A 45-year-old man is the only confirmed fatality from the illness. Prasadini said an autopsy did not provide any more information about why he died. The man was hospitalized after presenting symptoms similar to epilepsy.
According to health officials, the patients range in age and location. At least 70 children are among those who fell ill, too.
Prasadini told Reuters no serious new cases have arisen in the last 24 hours.
Is it COVID-19?
Doctors say all the patients have tested negative for COVID-19.
They were also tested for other viruses such as dengue, chikungunya and herpes.
Blood samples show traces of lead and nickel
A team of doctors from the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences reported Tuesday that they found traces of lead and nickel in patients’ blood samples, Reuters and the Times of India reported. According to Reuters, a second hospital is running similar tests.
Alla Kali Krishna Srinivas, the deputy chief minister for health, confirmed the preliminary results but said more testing was needed to determine the cause, the Times of India reported.
Other state officials had suggested that an organochlorine substance, found in pesticides, may have poisoned the patients.
Prasadini said that theory was also being tested as such pesticides were common in the area, and the patients may have eaten vegetables that contained traces of the chemicals.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: India mystery illness: Nickel and lead in blood, 500 hospitalized