THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At least 50 people in Kottayam district have reportedly lost their vision after gazing at the sun looking for an image of Virgin Mary.
Though alarmed health authorities have installed a signboard to counter the rumour that a solar image of Virgin Mary appeared to the believers, curious onlookers, including foreign travellers, have been thronging the venue of the ‘miracle’.
St Joseph’s ENT and Eye Hospital in Kanjirappally alone has recorded 48 cases of vision loss due to photochemical burns on the retina. “All our patients have similar history and symptoms. The damage is to the macula, the most sensitive part of retina. They have developed photochemical, not thermal, burns after continuously gazing at the sun,” Dr Annamma James Isaac, the hospital’s ophthalmologist, said.
The hospital has been receiving patients with these abnormal symptoms since Friday. When the doctors found a pattern in the case sheets, they reported it to the district medical officer.
The health department has now put up a signboard at the hotelier’s house near Erumeli, where the divine image is said to have appeared, warning people against exposing their eyes to sunlight.
Even the churches in the vicinity disowned the miracle during Sunday mass after health officers and doctors approached the clergy. The house in question has been the centre of local rumours for a few months. The hotelier, who has since moved to another house, had claimed that statues of Mother Mary in his house have been crying honey and bleeding oil and perfumes.
Though people have been flocking to the “blessed land” - hastily christened Rosa Mystica Mountain - for long, the mad rush for the image in the sky began a week ago.
There are quite a few people still seeking the miracle, despite the experiences of their unfortunate predecessors and strict health warnings against gazing at the sun with the naked eye.
“The patients show varying degrees of severity. They are mostly girls in 12-26 age group. Our youngest patient is 12 and the oldest 60. Most of them were looking at the sun between 2 and 4 pm, when UV1 and UV2 rays are harshest,” Dr James Isaac said. He added that they could identify the problem as solar retinopathy because they were aware of the local sensation.
“Most patients may hopefully improve their vision. But there may be long-term effects on the retina,” he added.
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