Paul Obi in Abuja

State govt calls for suspension of local gin consumption

The death of the 18 people in Ondo State in a mysterious circumstance has been linked to a local gin, otherwise known as ‘Ogogoro,’ that was contaminated with poisonous material (methanol).Fidelis-Nwankwo

The Minister of State for Health, Fidelis Nwankwo, stated this at a media briefing in Abuja, monday.
He said: “At this stage, the particular poisonous substance (toxin) is being ascertained. The results of these detailed investigations currently being conducted by government and partners are still being awaited and will be made public as soon as possible.”
Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has denied ever issuing any statement on the mysterious deaths.

According to the minister, “Epidemiological findings indicate a strong linkage of the outbreak with the consumption of a local gin that may have been contaminated with methanol (poisonous material).

“The assuring news however, is that no new cases have been reported in the past 100 hours and no new mortality in the last 72 hours.
“We therefore believe that the situation is under control and that the stability will be sustained, while active case search and contact tracing continue in earnest.

“However, if any suspected case is found, it should be reported to the nearest health centre for prompt investigation and treatment.”
While noting that preliminary laboratory investigations indicated that the outbreak cannot be attributed to any infectious organism (bacterial or viral), Nwankwo further said the outbreak was also clearly not due to Ebola Virus Disease, as feared by many.

The minister assured the public that the federal government shall continue to exercise diligence to prevent its re-occurrence or that of any other public health risks in any part of the country and that the government shall ensure rapid response to any events of public health concern which the system in place timely detects.

Nigerians have therefore been enjoined to remain calm but very vigilant and to report any events of public health concern to the nearest health facility or health authorities.

He further advised that people should not panic or take any action inimical to their comfort, well-being or business based on false information or rumour.

Speaking, the Country Representative of the WHO, Dr Rui Gama Vaz, denied issuing any statement on the disease.
He also tasked the federal and Ondo State Government to find the cause of the disease.

While disclaiming the statement being circulated in the country in the name of WHO, Vaz said: “I did not, nor my office, make any statement. What we have agreed is that if there is any statement, this will be done together jointly by the Federal Ministry of Health and the WHO as we did for Ebola, as we did when we eradicated Guinea Worm, and all other diseases. So, this is not correct, the information that has been circulating about the disease is not from WHO Country office of Nigeria.”

While sending condolences to the families of the bereaved and sick, Vaz commended both Ondo State and federal governments for their efforts on the ailment so far.

“What is important in this situation is to make sure that we know the causes. Unless we have the final diagnosis from the lab, everything is a potential cause. So, the key issue is that the lab is taking the necessary action to identify the cause. The other important aspect that was clear was that it had nothing to do with viral diseases or any bacteria.”

Meanwhile, the state government has called for the suspension of the consumption of ‘Ogogoro’ by the public, particularly residents of the communities where deaths have been recorded in Irele Local Government Area following the discovery a strange disease in the area which has killed about 16 people so far.

At a press briefing addressed jointly by the state’s Commissioners for Health and Information, Dr. Dayo Adeyanju and Kayode Akinmade in Akure yesterday, the government said the result of medical findings linked the deaths to methanol poisoning contrary to the report of pesticide. The government warned members of the public against consumption of Ogogoro and other herbal mixture pending the discovery of the root cause of the disease.

The state government confirmed that the figure of the dead still remains at 18 while five people are receiving treatment at the University Teaching Hospital Ibadan.

It maintained that the disease was not infectious, noting that the Ministries of Health and Information would continue to sensitise the public on the disease with a view to allaying unnecessary fear, even as the State Commissioner for Information, Akinmade enjoined the media to keep enlightening the public through accurate information dissemination.

Meanwhile, WHO office in the state yesterday denied media reports that the Irele death was caused by pesticide.

The the state Coordinator of the WHO Dr. Akinola Fatiregun, made the clarification at a press briefing in Akure.

He said the clinical feature and diagnosis carried out suggest edmethanol poisoning as the cause of the mysterious deaths.

Fatiregun said the WHO’s office in Abuja was prepared to properly address the press on the issue, stressing that what his office was able to detect was methanol poisoning as the reason for the deaths in the affected communities.

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