by OJO OYEWAMIDE AND FEMI OYEWESO
*** Ogun moves to curtail possible outbreak at border town
The strange deaths had been ascribed to an angry local deity called “malokun” in whose shrine some youths had allegedly gone to steal.
But the Commissioner for Health, Dayo Adeyanju, yesterday disclosed that findings from the post-mortem carried out on the victims and other laboratory tests showed that ethanol poison was found in their systems.
Adeyanju, who made the disclosure in Akure, added that preliminary report also revealed that the disease was neither epidemic nor contagious.
He said: “Our investigations have also revealed that the victims, who, interestingly, were all Okada riders, gathered at some local joints to consume alcoholic substance mixed with roots and some 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 poison, and in view of this, we have ordered for another toxicology test for surviving victims.”
Saying there had been no report of new cases in the last three days, the commissioner explained that 23 people were affected in all, out of which 18 had lost their lives.
According to him, five survivors who have gone blind had been referred to the University Teaching Hospital, UCH, Ibadan for further examination and monitoring.
Adeyanju said he would not join issues with traditionalists, who believe that the death was due to some angry god 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 back up his claims with available evidence.
The commissioner, however, said that the dead persons would be buried in body bags to curtail the spread of the disease.
A spokesman for the World Health Organisation, WHO, also disclosed that pesticide poisoning was the probable cause of the mysterious deaths.
The spokesman, Gregory Haertl, confirmed that tests done so far had been negative for viral and bacterial infections.
He said the current theory was that the deaths were caused by weedkiller.
Haertl tweeted: “Current hypothesis is cause of the event is herbicides” and “Tests done so far are negative for viral and bacterial infection.”
Meanwhile, Ogun State government has assured residents and citizens not to entertain any fear over the possible spread of the disease to the state.
The state government said the assurance became imperative owing to the fact that Ogun shares common boundaries with Ondo State at Waterside Local Government.
A statement issued over the weekend in Abeokuta, the state capital by the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Olaokun Soyinka, explained that the state’s Disease Surveillance Team, who had earlier been on red alert has been deployed to ensure that the disease does not spread to the state.
Soyinka also explained that the state’s Emergency Response Team is maintaining close contact with the Ondo State government on other measures towards ensuring that the disease is curtailed and does not constitute another national epidemic like the Ebola Virus Disease, EVD.
“Given recent outbreaks, we are aware that the members of the general public may be worried. However, we wish to assure the people of Ogun State that there is no immediate cause for concern.
“In particular, we are monitoring Ogun Waterside Local Government area closely and are sensitising our border communities to reduce cross border movements to Ondo State for now,” the commissioner said.
Soyinka, who explained that the characteristics of the deaths were not suggestive of any highly infectious disease, further hinted that the Disease Surveillance Team whose capability had earlier been enhanced during the outbreak of EVD has been put on full alert on the order of the governor.
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