The mysterious disease which claimed 18 lives and left five victims blind and on the brink of death in Ode Irele (Ondo state) has been linked to the consumption of alcohol mixed with roots! Popularly known as ‘paraga’, the concoction is a mixture of herbs and alcohol purported to cure all sorts of ailments and conditions!
On Sunday, April 19, 2015, the commissioner for health in Ondo state, Dr. Dayo Adeyanju, at a press conference, stated that all tests conducted on the victims showed high level of ethanol poisoning. This conclusion corroborates World Health Organisation’s position which linked the strange deaths to pesticides and herbicides.
At the conference, Adeyanju said:
“We strongly suspect ethanol poison … and in view of this, we have ordered for another toxicology test for surviving victims. Our investigations revealed that the victims, who are commercial motorcyclists, gathered at some local joints to take alcoholic substance mixed with roots and some other local herbs on the eve of the outbreak of the disease. I can assure you that the disease is in no way contagious. The fact that none of the caregivers has contracted the disease has greatly underscored this point. Therefore, the fear of spread does not arise and should be discouraged.”
Fear enveloped Ode Irele on Wednesday, April 15, 2015, when the disease was noticed with its victims dying within 24 hours. The victims were ravaged by headache, weight loss, blurred vision, blindness and loss of consciousness.
Many first pointed at Ebola virus and other fearsome ailments, while traditionalists claimed that the victims had participated in the desecration of a shrine.
WHO ALLAYED FEARS
Good news that the strange deaths had nothing to do with stealing traditional objects from a shrine and offending the gods came through WHO which had sent epidemiologists to Ode Irele. Their preliminary tests showed that the victims had been exposed to pesticides and herbicides. WHO spokesman, Gregory Hartl, reportedly tweeted that the deaths was caused by pesticide poisoning.
Further tests which eliminated Ebola virus were also carried out at Lagos University Teaching Hospital.
HIGH PRIESTS CLAIMED VICTIMS STOLE FROM MOLOKUN SHRINE
When apprehension enveloped the town of Ode Irele and everyone was filled with anxiety about the reason for the strange ailment and deaths, High Priest Moses Enimade who spoke on behalf of the town led by Oba Cornelius Olanrewaju-Lebi, the king, offered that an abomination was responsible. He maintained that some youths had broken into the Molokun shrine and stolen some objects. Apart from the shrine being sacred, only a handful of people are allowed access.
But the young thieves, in search of extraordinary powers and money making rituals, committed a sacrilege. And the punishment was painful and swift death.
Another account claimed the youths, on April 5, had desecrated the shrine, removed the Agogo Ide (golden bell), and sold it to a middleman who eventually passed it to a foreigner. The youths had shared N100,000 apiece, and began living large in the town. But by April 15, they started dying by the dozen.
APPEASING THE GODS
In order to forestall further deaths and bring calm and good health to the people of Ode Irele, the gods had to be appeased and on Saturday, April 18, scores of buckets of water mixed with leaves were emptied in front of the shrine.
NO NEW CASES OF STRANGE DISEASE
By last weekend, no new cases of the strange disease were recorded. The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dayo Adeyanju, had earlier assured that the disease was not contagious nor was the situation an epidemic. He reiterated that ethanol poisoning was found in the system of all the victims. And that of the 23 victims, 18 died and five, who have gone blind, were being examined at University College Hospital, Ibadan (Oyo).