A strange ailment that broke out some 10 days ago in Kano state has killed not less than three persons with some 284 others hospitalised in various medical facilities across the state.
The source of the disease, it was gathered, came from a borehole drilled around the Dandolo cemetery from where vendors fetched to sell to unsuspecting customers.
The development, Blueprint gathered, has caused panic among residents of the ancient city now worried over what might happen to them in the next few days, having consumed the water at different times.
Our findings revealed that the tragic news came on the heels of a gruelling ordeal suffered by a family of 13 in Gwale local government area of the state, where it was reported that some family members vomited after taking water fetched by a vendor in jerry cans from a well located near the said cemetery.
The victims, according to investigation, suspected their predicament stemmed from the water they bought from the vendor who ferried it into their house from the well located near the cemetery.
They also suspected the water was diluted with a juice which they believed might have compounded the situation.
This, they said, led to the death of the three people who were officially confirmed, even as it was yet to be ascertained whether they were from the same family.
Consequent upon getting wind of the ugly development, residents of the ancient city were of the view that a killer-juice might have been in circulation.
They therefore insisted medical authorities should clear the air on the genuine nature of the ailment which had already sent shivers down the spines of those who drank the said juice in the past few days.
Confirming the development in Kano, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Aminu Ibrahim Tsanyawa, told journalists Tuesday that the number of those who died as a result of the ailment was 3.
Tsanyawa had earlier in the day confirmed two persons dead and 140 hospitalised.
But giving an update at a media parley, Tsanyawa said the number of persons hospitalised had risen to 284 cutting across 13 local government areas of the state.
He further said a taskforce under his ministry, had so far confiscated assorted drinks worth over N59 million, suspected to have been consumed by the victims.
The commissioner said the affected persons took expired citric acid powdered drinks -the brand of Jolly Jus or Fresh, said to have expired since a year ago but were still all over Kano markets.
And in a swift response, the state’s Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has commenced investigation into the incident, conducting shop-to-shop search in markets within the ancient city.
Tsanwaya said, of the 284 hospitalised, about 101of them had been discharged, with 183 still being attended to.
The affected persons, said the state government, were admitted into 25 health facilities across the state as the ailment spread across 13 local government areas namely; Gwale, Kano Municipal, Dala, Bunkure, Fagge, Gwarzo, Dawakin Tofa, Ungogo, Kumbotso, Tarauni, Rano, Dawakinjudu and Danbatta.
He said: “We have deployed personnel and scaled up surveillance in the 44 local government areas of the state to check circulation of the suspected products. The state government is providing free treatment to the infected persons. 13 persons have been arrested in connection with the circulation of the suspected products.
“The index is a six-year old girl who developed abdominal pain, was vomiting and had jaundice and urine with blood (hematuria) after drinking water bought from a vendor.
“The vendor was said to have sourced the water from a borehole at a cemetery in the metropolis. The assumption involves instant drink flavour powder and a variety of salt for industrial use (caustic powder).
“Water, blood and different instant drink flavour powder samples have been taken for tests to pin down a diagnosis, ranging from food-borne disease, food poisoning, Lassa Fever, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, Chemical poisoning to Toxix Hepatitis.”
The commissioner also said the illness carries along with it “a barrage of symptoms including fever, yellowish discolouration of the eyes, haematuria, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache, body-aches, generalized body weakness, dizziness and in some cases requiring blood transfusion.”
Tsanwaya therefore called on members of the public to be wary of taking such powder drinks as Ramadan approaches.
“As we are near the fasting (Ramadan) period, that one can fulfil his daily recommended intake of fruits by drinking 100 percent juice by following safety guidelines to help prevent food-borne illness alongside personal and environmental hygiene,” he said.
Arising from this development, the state’s CPC announced a ban on all instant flavoured drinks across the state.
Managing Director of the agency, Dr. Baffa Babba Danagundi, who announced this in Kano Tuesday, listed the affected drinks to include among others; Foster Clark Critic Acid and Jolly Juice.
Danagundi urged members of the public to report to the council any violation of the directive.
Residents in fear
Notwithstanding the state government’s efforts, residents have expressed worry over their health status, even as they provided insight into cause(s) of the mystery ailment.
One of the residents of the area struck by the strange ailment, Malam Ibrahim Bayi of Gwale quarters in Kano, said the strange ailment might have been precipitated by the importation of the killer-juice into the state by those desperate to reap fabulous profit out of it.
Bayi said it’s either the said drink was contaminated or had expired for quite a long time.
He said: “I am not surprised by the current development in view of the fact that some greedy people want to make money easily. They should remember that they are doing a great disservice to humanity without taking the severe repercussions into consideration. People are recklessly turning Kano into a dumping ground for anything expired.
“But it is the responsibility of food and drugs regulatory agencies like NAFDAC to buckle up and rise to the challenge of launching a sustained offensive on warehouses suspected to be harbouring expired goods like soft drinks for public safety. We cannot afford to have some irresponsible elements ruining our live unnecessarily. NAFDAC and relevant regulatory agencies must buckle up.”
Speaking in the same vein, a concerned citizen of the area, Malam Shehu Nakande said, witnessing an ugly scenario of that magnitude wasn’t new, having happened in the past few years.
Naakande recalled the killer-beans incident which took a disastrous toll on a certain family, adding that it is high time the state government inaugurated a special taskforce with the aim of checking the excesses of reckless business men who often take solace in disposing into the market adulterated and expired food drinks.
He said the time had come for perpetrators of such despicable act to be shown the way out, calling on the government to come up with a punitive measures against anyone found to have taken pleasure in dealing and selling expired food items and soft drinks.