Methanol poisoning from gin kills 19 in Nigeria

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Fidelis Nwankwo displaying a poster for community awareness. Photo: WHO/Africa office
Fidelis Nwankwo displaying a poster for community awareness. Photo: WHO/Africa office

Related tags: Epidemiology

The ‘mystery disease’ which has killed 19 people in Nigeria has been linked to local gin contaminated with methanol, according to the Ministry of Health.

Fidelis Nwankwo, the Minister of State for Health, said preliminary epidemiological and laboratory investigations indicate it is not attributed to any infectious disease.

A total of 19 people have died since April 15 out of 24 reported cases.

Locally brewed gin

Available records showed the reported cases were among males, between the ages of 20 and 75 years old. 71% had history of having consumed locally brewed gin and were farmers.

Symptoms include sudden blurred vision, headache, and loss of consciousness followed by death, all within 24 hours of onset.

WHO Nigeria
Minister of State for Health flanked by the Director of Public Health and the WHO Country Representative in Nigeria

The World Health Organization (WHO) had earlier said it was investigating the possibility that weedkiller was the cause.   

In a press briefing yesterday (April 20), he said no new cases have been reported in the past 100 hours and no related mortality in the last 72 hours but laboratory investigation was ongoing.

Epidemiological findings indicate a strong link with local gin that might have been contaminated with methanol.

Outbreak investigation

Health officials from the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), government agencies (including the Nigeria Center for Disease Control) and WHO were deployed to Irele, in south-western Nigeria to investigate the outbreak.

Dr Rui Gama Vaz, WHO country representative in Nigeria, praised the Ondo state government for the rapid response and deployment of its epidemiological structure to investigate and mitigate the situation.

“WHO will continue to provide technical support to the FMOH and related agencies, to strengthen surveillance at community level for early case identification; the associated risk factors and to create awareness to avert similar situations in future.” ​  

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