Monday, October 3, 2022

Eluru health catastrophe

  • More than 600 persons hospitalised
  • Convulsions, seizures, dizziness, vomiting and nausea noticed
  • Drinking water contained fertilizers, pesticides

Eluru town is the head quarters of west Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh. It was shaken by what was termed as a mystery disease during past two weeks. Mystery still taunts in spite of several health and medical research organizations examining the problem. More than 600 people were hospitalized, majority of them being children and women. Initially a death was also reported. Men were also not spared by the onslaught of this strange illness. While the covid-19 had its sway in the state this fast spreading disease placed the people of the town on tenterhooks. People suffered from convulsions, seizures, dizziness, vomiting and nausea. The seizures also in some cases resulted in patients becoming unconscious.

DDT, Chlorine prime reason?

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) traced lead and nickel samples in the blood of some patients. Thus the initial suspicion was put on heavy metals. Then the water samples betrayed as the pesticides and fertilizers escaped into the drinking waters as the cause. Some experts felt that the excessive usage of DDT and chlorine used in the canals of Godavari and Krishna rivers as a measure of Covid-19 sanitization as the prime reason. Expert institutions like AIIMS, New Delhi,  were researching on blood, water and milk for heavy metals, Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, was looking for presence of pathogens, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) testing traces of heavy metals in consumables and Institute of Chemical Technology was examining for traces of pesticides. Other individual scientists are also expressing their opinions for this outburst of illness all of a sudden.

Highly polluted canals

For an environmentalist and a social scientist the causes for the outbreak appear as far many. Firstly the water bodies including canals are highly polluted with garbage and sewage dumps in the town. The Eluru canal running through the town can be seen as drawing in its strides all the solid and liquid waste from surrounding. Washing of cattle and cloths is also of a common sight along the lengths of canals. Adjacent are several fish growing tanks and spread of vast agricultural fields. Next is the absence of imparting education on proper health care and personal responsibility by the concerned machinery. Lastly there is ample neglect of rules and regulations in implementing norms for aqua culture, water use as well as for consumption. This is coupled with inadequate sanitary precautions in the State and consumption of food items among the largely present rustic joints. So the roots of this catastrophe lie elsewhere and the buck has to stop somewhere.

Explanations won’t satisfy

Whatever may be the cause for this illness we cannot be satisfied with the mere explanation of a mysterious occurrence in these times of scientific advancement. More home work is warranted on the part of governance in preventing recurrence of such health hazards.

Prof. Sivamohan Marepalli
Prof. Sivamohan Marepalli
The writer is a researcher, consultant and teacher. He worked at ASCI and had brief stints at Cornell University, IWMI and other international organizations.

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