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Mystery illness kills one person, sickens hundreds in southern India

Patients and bystanders line a hospital corridor.
Patients at a hospital Sunday in Eluru, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
(Associated Press)

At least one person has died and 200 others have been hospitalized from an unidentified illness in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, reports said Monday.

The illness was detected Saturday evening in Eluru, an ancient city famous for its handwoven products. Since then, patients have experienced symptoms ranging from nausea and anxiety to loss of consciousness, doctors said.

A 45-year-old man who was hospitalized with symptoms similar to epilepsy and nausea died Sunday evening, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Officials are trying to determine the cause of the illness. So far, water samples from affected areas have not shown any signs of contamination, and Andhra Pradesh’s chief minister’s office said people not linked to the municipal water supply have also fallen ill. The patients are of different ages and have tested negative for COVID-19 and other viral diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and herpes.

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An expert team dispatched by the federal government reached the city to investigate the sudden illness Monday.

Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy visited a government hospital and met patients who were ill. Opposition leader N. Chandrababu Naidu tweeted a demand for an “impartial, full-fledged inquiry into the incident.”

Andhra Pradesh state is among those worst-hit in India by the coronavirus, with more than 800,000 detected cases. The health system in the state, like the rest of India, has been frayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

India has the world’s third-highest death toll from COVID-19. The South Asian nation has registered 140,573 deaths from the disease, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. That is about half the U.S. tally, which is the world’s worst.


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