By Ndidi Chukwu
The Federal Government Monday debunked rumors over the cause of outbreak described as “mysterious disease,” in Ondo state, last week. Minister of State for Heath, Mr Fidelis Nwankwo, at a briefing in Abuja said “the situation is under control.”
Nwankwo informed that epidemiological findings indicated strong linkage of the outbreak with the consumption of a local gin that “may have been contaminated with methanol (poisonous material.) At this stage, the particular poisonous substance (toxin) is being ascertained. The result of these detailed investigations currently being conducted by government and partners are still being awaited and will be made public as soon as possible.
“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,” he said.
According to him, the victims of the illness have been males between the ages of 22 and 75 years. He said they mostly exhibited headache, burring of vision, sudden blindness, and loss of speech, unconsciousness and sudden death within 48 hours. He explained further that as the last count, 18 of the 23 cases had died. The remaining five, he said, are receiving treatment at University College Hospital, Ibadan.
He however assured that government would continue to work with relevant agencies to get to the root of the scourge, even as he stressed that the joint where people took the drink had been closed while people had been taught to observe all the precautionary measures. “I hope that we are hearing the last of this,” he said.
Meanwhile, Country Representative, World Health Organization, Dr Rui Gama Vaz denied issuing any statement on the disease, as reported in some section of the media.
He also tasked the Federal and Ondo state governments to find the cause of the disease.
“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,” he said.
While condoling the families of the bereaved and sick, Vaz commended both Ondo and Federal Government 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,” Vaz added.