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Lagos clarifies claim on cause of cholera outbreak

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The Lagos State Government has clarified its position on the cause of the cholera outbreak currently ravaging the state.

News reports had earlier suggested that the consumption of an unregistered tiger nut drink reportedly sold in Eti-Osa Local Government Area of the state was responsible for the outbreak.

The reports referenced an interview the Special Adviser to the Governor on Health, Kemi Ogunyemi, had with The Punch Newspaper.

However, in his reaction to the report, the Director of Public Affairs at the state’s Ministry of Health, Tunbosun Ogunbanwo, said Ms Ogunyemi did not disclose any conclusion of the state’s investigations into the causes of the outbreak.

Mr Ogunbanwo, in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES Saturday night, said Mrs Ogunyemi was misrepresented. He said various possible sources, including the tiger nut drink, were being investigated to determine the cause of the outbreak.

Tiger nut as major denominator

In the interview, Mrs Ogunyemi classified a tiger nut drink reportedly consumed by many of those who presented cholera cases in Eti-Osa Local Government Area as a significant denominator, noting that most of them confirmed they took the drink before presenting cases of diarrhoea and other cholera symptoms at the hospitals.

Mrs Ogunyemi said in the interview: “So 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. There was a phone number and a name on the bottle, and we started tracing. 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. From our investigations, we realised that 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.”

But Mrs Ogunyemi added that since cholera is a water-borne disease, the government has continued to test the water, food, and stool of patients who present the symptoms, particularly those who had not taken antibiotics before approaching hospitals.


Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, has, within the last couple of days, been ravaged by a cholera outbreak that has claimed more than 20 lives from almost 500 suspected cases.

The state’s Commissioner for Health, Akin Abayomi, on Saturday morning, announced an increase in the number of fatalities recorded from the disease, noting that cases have been recorded across 20 Local Government Areas (LGA) in the state.

Before now, rumours had spread through the city, especially on social media, that the rampaging disease could be linked to the consumption of tiger nut drinks. The state immediately dispelled the rumour, insisting that investigations were still ongoing to unravel the causes of the development.

However, the Saturday reports suggested that the state had confirmed the cause of the disease.

Govt reacts

In his reaction, Mr Ogunbanwo said no state government official had made such a claim with a tone of finality.

He said: “Neither the Special Adviser on Health to the Governor nor any official of the state government gave any of such conclusion. What the SA said was that the state is investigating everything including water, food and drinks. There is no conclusion yet.”

Cholera surge

In her interview with Punch newspaper, Mrs Ogunyemi noted that the disease spread further across the state during Eid festivities.

She said more people showed up at hospitals with diarrhoea and vomiting following the celebrations, while some died as a result of a delay in getting medical help.

Mrs Ogunyemi noted that the first symptom of the disease is usually abdominal pain, followed by diarrhoea. Other symptoms may include fever, vomiting, and muscle pain.

“However, we anticipated an increase after the Ileyah celebrations, which indeed happened. Unfortunately, we also had an increase in deaths.

“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.

She warned the public to desist from self-medication and rather report to a medical centre upon noticing symptoms of the disease.

Data on disease

Lagos Island, Eti-Osa and Kosofe LGAs had the highest number of persons who reported to the hospital upon noticing symptoms of cholera.

Suspected Cholera cases in Lagos rose to 423 after the state recorded an additional six new infections on Thursday, 20 June.

The state authorities released the new data only 24 hours after it previously announced an increase in fatalities recorded from the disease.

Currently, 24 deaths and 35 confirmed infections out of 417 suspected cases have been recorded across 20 LGAs, including Eti Osa.

Aside from Eti Osa, cases have been reported in Agege, Badagry, Ikeja, Mushin, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Epe, Ikorodu, Ojo, and Alimosho.

Source: https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/706189-lagos-clarifies-claim-on-cause-of-cholera-outbreak.html

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