The mystery illness that has sickened hundreds of people in southern India appears to be the result of contamination, not infection. Health officials say excessive amounts of nickel and lead have been found in blood samples from at least 10 patients, CBS reports. More than 500 people have been hospitalized since Saturday evening, when people in the city of Eluru started convulsing without warning, according to Geeta Prasadini, the director of public health in Andhra Pradesh state. Other symptoms included nausea, headaches, and memory loss, reports the Times of India. One patient, a 45-year-old man, has died, while more than 300 have recovered and been released from hospitals.
Authorities initially said contaminated water had been ruled out as the cause, but it's not clear if they checked water supplies for metal. Teams of experts have been sent to the area and authorities say they have ordered all possible tests to be carried out on water and milk supplies. Authorities are also investigating whether pesticides could be to blame. Experts say the outbreak has been puzzling because there doesn't seem to be any link between the hundreds of people who fell ill, who live in different areas, reports the AP. The patients have tested negative for COVID-19, which has infected more than 800,000 people in the state. (Read more India stories.)