Eighteen people died under mysterious circumstances in southwest Nigeria this week, sparking fears of a new infectious disease outbreak. Weed killer was the likely cause, the World Health Organization has now said.
When over a dozen men in the village of Ode Irele in southwestern Ondo state who complained of similar symptoms all died within a day, alarm bells began to ring. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no reason to suspect any outbreak of infectious disease, such as Ebola, which has claimed over 10,000 lives in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
The "current hypothesis is herbicides," WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said on Sunday, adding: "Tests done so far are negative for viral and bacterial infection."
The victims began showing symptoms between April 13 and 15, including blurred vision and loss of consciousness, and Ondo spokesman Kayode Akinmade said it was due to a "mysterious killer disease."
The Ondo state health commissioner, Dayo Adeyanju, said on Saturday that a total of 23 people had been affected.
The state government of Ondo State set up an emergency response task team aimed at containing the spread of the illness. The team was tracing all people who had come into contact with the dead and monitoring them in case of infection, Adeyanju said in a statement.
State spokesman Akinmade said health officials and experts from the government and aid agencies, as well as WHO epidemiologists, had arrived in Ode Irele to investigate the deaths.
All of the tests were carried out at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, the WHO said.
glb/kms (dpa, AFP)