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Health experts doubt LASG’s claim that unregistered tiger nut drinks caused cholera outbreak 

The Lagos State Government has identified an unregistered tiger nut drink as the primary cause of the recent cholera outbreak affecting several local government areas, including Lagos Island, Eti-Osa, and Kosofe.  

Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Health, Kemi Ogunyemi, reportedly made this claim in an interview granted to the Punch newspaper.  

This revelation comes as hospitals report the highest number of cases, prompting an urgent public health response.  

However, some health experts who spoke to Nairametrics doubt the claim, stating that the government was yet to provide sufficient evidence to justify such it.  

The Lagos government statement  

According to Lagos State, a survey revealed that a common denominator among affected individuals was the consumption of a tiger nut drink circulating in the area.  

Speaking to the Punch Newspaper, Ogunyemi disclosed that the drink is not registered with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). 

Ogunyemi added that all patients who sought treatment reported consuming this drink.  

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.” He stated. 

He also claimed to have found empty bottles of the drink “with a name on them” but did not disclose what the manufacturer of the drink is. 

“We immediately sent people out to look for those selling it so we could take a sample.” 

We found empty bottles (of tiger nut drinks) 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, NAFDAC, 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.” 

Health Experts’ voices on the cholera outbreak in Lagos state 

Nairametrics sought the view of health experts on the comments of the special adviser’s claim that a certain tiger nut drink was the cause of the outbreak.   

Some of the experts who chose to remain anonymous for fear of being victimized, disputed the claims suggesting that the issue is more likely related to water contamination, particularly given the island’s long-standing water quality issues. 

One anonymous expert asserted, “It is not possible for a tiger nut brand to be the cause. There is a case on the mainland and the individual did not consume tiger nut drinks.” 

Another health professional emphasised, “The issue is water-related, not just tiger nut drinks. The island, which has always had bad water problems and is densely populated, is more severely affected. Cholera is a waterborne disease, so its prevalence is higher on the island.” 

Experts questioned the evidence backing the government’s claim, with one stating, “Where is the data to deduce that tiger nut drinks are the primary source? You can’t overlook cases on the mainland.” 

Just like the special adviser, the health experts did not provide evidence to dispute the tiger nut claims. 

Preventive measures 

Despite the claims and counterclaims a Pharmacist Ijeh Esther who spoke to Nairametrics suggested measures to enhance the regulation and monitoring of local beverage producers.  

“The Lagos State Government should provide loans and amenities to local producers to help them meet standards.” 

“Regular monitoring by NAFDAC authorities is essential. They should conduct market surveys and workshops, training local drink producers to maintain hygienic conditions.” 

Addressing immediate actions to contain the outbreak, Pharm. Ijeh also highlighted the importance of widespread information dissemination.  

“There should be wider media coverage. The cholera vaccine should be readily available in all primary health centres.” 

“The government needs to ensure the availability of vaccines, especially during outbreaks.” 

“Using billboards and posters is crucial as not everyone has a smartphone. Community leaders should be sensitised to educate their members.” 

Health practitioner, Dr. Ose Oyakhilome, commented on tracing the source of the unregistered tiger nut drink, stating “Contact tracing is not effective in identifying sources of cholera in a densely populated area like Lagos.”  

“Safe food handling and hygiene practices are essential. Effective quality control in Nigeria is lacking, and the island’s water quality is notoriously poor.” 

“Waters used by restaurants and local drink producers are not tested, leading to potential contamination.” 

On immediate actions and effective communication, Dr. Oyakhilome emphasised, “Health literacy on cholera must be improved. Information should be made accessible in indigenous languages like Yoruba and Hausa.” 

“The government should plan for quality control in safe food handling, starting with major restaurants and extending to roadside sellers.” 

What you should know 

The cholera outbreak in Lagos began in June 2024, with cases first reported in Lagos Island.  

The disease quickly spread to other areas, including Eti-Osa and Kosofe, leading to widespread concern and an urgent response from public health officials. 

Dr. Kemi Ogunyemi provided an update on the outbreak, revealing that the number of cholera cases has risen to 401, with Lagos Island, Kosofe, and Eti Osa being the most affected areas.  


Source: TheTimes.com.ng.

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