dseOndo State Government has disclosed that 18 residents who died from a strange disease which broke out on April 15 in Ode-Irele, Irele Local Government Area, could have died from ethanol poisoning. It also declared that the mystery disease was not contagious.
This came as the World Health Organisation, WHO, said that tests carried out on the victims, showed that pesticide poisoning was the likely cause of their deaths.
WHO, in a tweet by its spokesman, Mr. Gregory Hartl, said yesterday that “current hypothesis is that cause of the event is herbicides.”
“Tests done so far are negative for viral and bacterial infection,” he added.
The State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dayo Adeyanju, told journalists at the weekend in Akure, the state capital that findings from post-mortem carried out on the victims and other laboratory tests revealed that the disease was neither epidemic nor contagious.
Adeyanju said that preliminary report showed that ethanol poison was found in the systems of all the victims.
He said: “Our investigations have also revealed that the victims, who interestingly, were all commercial cyclists (Okada riders), gathered at some local joints to consume alcoholic substance mixed with roots and other local herbs on the eve of the outbreak of the disease.
“I can assure you that the disease is in no way contagious. The fact that none of the caregivers has contracted the disease has greatly underscored this point.
“Therefore, the fear of spread does not arise and should be discouraged. We strongly suspect ethanol poisoning, and in view of this, we have ordered for another toxicology test for the surviving victims,” Adeyanju said.
The commissioner said that there had been no report of new cases in the last three days and disclosed that 23 people were affected, of which 18 had died.
He disclosed that five survivors, who have gone blind, had been referred to the University Teaching Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, Oyo State for further examination and monitoring.
Adeyanju said he would not join issues with traditionalists who believe that the outbreak of the disease was caused by some angry gods from whose shrines some youths were said to have gone to steal.
He said his job goes beyond explaining the god’s action as he was expected to backup his claims with evidence.
The commissioner, however, said that the dead would be buried in body bags to curtail the spread of the disease.
Meanwhile, Nigerian Pilot gathered that while the government insists that the corpses be properly buried in a designated place, the locals and priest of “Malokun,” said to be in charge of the angry deity, believe they should be buried in an evil forest as a means of appeasing the god.
WHO however said that the victims began showing symptoms early last week in what Ondo State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, called a “mysterious disease,” prompting fears of a new infectious disease outbreak in the area.
The victims, whose symptoms included headache, weight loss, blurred vision and loss of consciousness, died within a day of falling ill in the town of Ode-Irele.
Akinmade said health officials and experts from the government and aid agencies, as well as WHO epidemiologists, had arrived in Ode-Irele to investigate the deaths.
The tests were carried out at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, WHO said.
Laboratory tests have so far ruled out Ebola or any other virus, Akinmade told Reuters news agency.
WHO said it had information on 14 cases with at least 12 dead.
“Common symptoms were sudden blurred vision, headache, loss of consciousness, followed by death, occurring within 24 hours,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told AFP by email, adding that an investigation was ongoing.
Jasarevic said blood and urine samples had been taken from two victims and cerebrospinal fluid from another.
“All samples have been sent to Lagos University Teaching Hospital and results are still pending. Investigations are still ongoing,” he said.

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