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Lagos Govt Traces Cholera Epidemic To Popular Drink



Cholera outbreak in Eti-Osa caused by unregistered tiger nut drink

Dr Kemi Ogunyemi, the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Health, has blamed the cholera outbreak in Eti-Osa Local Government Area of the state on an unregistered tiger nut drink, loved by many.

Dr Ogunyemi said this in an interview with Punch.

She said, “When we noticed an increase in cases in Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos specifically, we went there to investigate. 

“We carried out a survey and found that the common denominator, which was one of the deadly factors, was a tiger nut drink. People who came to the hospitals all identified that they had drunk tiger nut drink. 

“We couldn’t just take their word for it, so we had to take that drink and test it to see what was in it. We immediately sent people out to look for those selling it so we could take a sample.”

“We found empty bottles with a name on them, but we discovered that it wasn’t even registered with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, the regulatory body that ensures the safety of consumables.

Dr Ogunyemi noted that there was a phone number and a name on the bottle which led the team to embark on tracing the people behind the drink. 

“We did contact tracing, similar to what we did with COVID-19. We combed the area to ask people where they got the drinks from. We couldn’t find any full bottles. We only found empty ones, which were of no use because we could not test them. The phone number on the bottle was not reachable.”

She further highlighted that from the findings of the investigations carried out,  “the beverages were not registered, so the producers hadn’t gone through the processes to ensure that what they were producing was safe for the public to consume.

“We traced it to that. Of course, cholera is also water-borne, so we took samples of the water to test it. The bottom line is that we took stool samples because different things cause diarrhoea.

” It could be anything else. We found out that it was confirmed cholera, specifically Vibrio cholera subtype 01, which is the most infectious and aggressive type. There are different types, but we identified this one. In Lagos Island, Eti-osa, and Kosofe, we recorded the highest number of cases that went to the hospital. I’m not talking about reported cases. These are the people who did the right thing by going to the hospital to complain of symptoms, and they were treated. That’s when we were alerted.”

Dr Ogunyemi noted challenge in encountered in testing specimens because people are hasty to take antibiotics which usually distort the test results. 

“Unfortunately, we can’t test everyone because most have already taken antibiotics, which doesn’t give us a good sample. We test those who just came and have not taken anything at home.”

However, she advised that Pharmacists should decline to sell drugs and direct people to go to the hospital for testing.

“Hence, part of our campaign is to advise people not to take antibiotics. Pharmacists should not sell them antibiotics. They should come straight to the hospital for testing. We provide oral rehydration therapy, which is crucial during cholera symptoms.

” It doesn’t mean the other local governments didn’t have cases, they did, but the numbers started decreasing. We were quite relieved because there was a day when we didn’t have any new cases. However, we anticipated an increase after the Ileyah celebrations, which indeed happened. Unfortunately, we also had an increase in deaths. That’s the unfortunate part. 

“More people have died, and about three of them were already dead upon arrival from home. From our history, we realised they had diarrhoea and vomiting for the past two or three days, but they never came to the hospital. They were probably treating themselves locally, which we advise against. That’s how we know. We’re hoping for a decline as we continue our efforts in the community.” She said.

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