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Experts try to crack mysterious illness

Medical experts who visited Sindhudurg district have collected serum samples; will submit detailed report to the public health dept

Sixteen deaths in Sindhudurg district in the last three months have kept medical experts on their toes, who are now analysing the serum samples of other patients exhibiting similar symptoms of fever and breathlessness.  

MiD DAY had reported yesterday, 'Mystery illness kills 16', how officials and experts from five medical bodies of the state, visited Sindhudurg district to infer the cause of death of 16 residents who succumbed to an unknown malady. 

In their two-day visit to the affected villages of Sindhudurg district, the team of experts from B J Medical College and National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune have collected serum samples of the affected individuals along with samples from relatives who shared common space with the deceased. To regularly monitor the situation, the state public health department has also asked the doctors to send serum samples of each critical patient to the NIV. Directorate Health Services director, Dr D S Dakhure, said, "The teams have collected the serum samples and studied the demographics of the district. Only after these samples are examined in the laboratory we can determine the actual cause of death." 

Common threads
Highlighting similarities among the deceased, Dr C J Shinde from the public health department, said, "When we checked the medical history of the 16 deceased patients, we found that all of them exhibited symptoms of fever and breathlessness while nobody tested positive for leptospirosis, dengue or malaria (diseases where patients usually exhibit such symptoms).  This has raised our suspicion that some other pathogen or virus may be responsible, which only the laboratory reports can testify."

 The health machinery in Sindhudurg was unable to trace the samples from the deceased therefore the microbiology teams are relying on the serum samples of those associated to the deceased. "Samples that were collected from the deceased were used up to diagnose other ailments but now the NIV has collected serum samples from critical patients to zero down on a common virus," Shinde added. When MiD DAY contacted Dr Mangesh Nanavre, assistant professor, Preventive Social Medicine of BJ Medical College Pune, who was part
of the medical team, he asserted, "While studying the medical background of the deceased patients, three among them had a history of liver cirrhosis which might have triggered the death in their cases. Another common observation is that all the patients died within five days of the fever."
Both NIV and B J Medical College officials have collected samples and will submit a detailed report to the public health department, after which the state will decide if they need to alter the treatment.

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