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Hundreds of people were struck down with a mystery illness that officials are now saying could have been caused by bleach and chlorine.

Health Department officials based in Andhra Pradesh who are investigating the incident claim excessive use of bleaching powder and chlorine, part of Covid-19 sanitisation measures, may have caused water contimination.

More than 550 people have been ill in Eluru sparking a large investigation.

A multi-disciplinary team of experts from the World Health Organization, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, AIIMS (New Dehli) and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, as well as the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology are involved.

Experts have said bleaching powder and chlorine used in Covid-10 sanitising measures may be causing the illness

Andhra Pradesh Health Minister A Krishna Srinivas told  The Indian Express : “Health experts suspect that excessive use of bleaching powder and chlorine in sanitation programmes as part of Covid-19 prevention measures may be the cause of water contamination. This is just one of the causes we are exploring.”

“The presence of lead and nickel in patients’ bodies might have caused the illness, which could be due to pesticides mixed up with the water supply in Eluru,” a statement from the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Office stated.

A multi-disciplinary team are working on getting to the bottom of the mystery outbreak

“Also, it was found that there was a significant drop in the level of lead in patients’ bodies after 24 hours of becoming sick. The dumping of broken batteries in water sources may also have led to the current situation,” an official said.

Experts who took first blood samples of patients also said pesticides might have contaminated drinking water sources.

Officials are examining food, water, urine, milk and blood samples from the families of the sick as well as analysing samples of vegetables and essentials from the market to get to the bottom of the illness.

However, there are no signs of danger, Dr J J Babu, the head of the NIN team has advised.

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