Infectious Diseases / Outbreak Watch

Mystery Illness Strikes People Blind, then Dead in Nigeria

A strange illness has claimed at least 25 lives  in OdeIrele in Irele local government area of Ondo State of Nigeria, according to several news reports (Sahara Reporters, Daily Post). The disease, which seems to have ravaged the area in the past ten days or so, affected all the hospitalized patients simultaneously. While news reports have stated at least 25 deaths, how many people were affected as not been reported.

The patients supposedly develop a headache, followed up sudden loss of vision which precedes death; in the interim, the patients may also suffer from loose stools, difficulty hearing and speaking and in a couple of cases, swelling of the tongue.

The temporal association and lack of secondary cases indicates that a toxic cause is more likely than an infectious one, however, until further reports are available, it would only be a speculation, at best. Given the constellation of symptoms, the possibility of methanol poisoning cannot be entirely excluded.

The villagers are, of course, blaming spirits for the outbreak, especially since an old shrine in the locality was ransacked and damaged by unknown individuals.

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