According to a statement released by the country’s Ministry of Health, 14 men and five women aged 32 to 72 have died since early June. These cases of poisoning are linked to counterfeit or informally produced drinks.
Seven of the incidents occurred in San Jose, the most populous province in Costa Rica, which includes its namesake capital city.
When ingested, it causes a variety of symptoms like abdominal pain, headaches, vomiting and vertigo, the World Health Organization (WHO) states. It can even cause blindness and coma.
Patients tend to only notice symptoms long after they’ve consumed it, which leads to an often fatal delay in treatment.
The Ministry of Health has seized over 30,000 bottles of potentially tainted alcohol, including brands like Molotov Aguardiente, Aguardiente Timbuka, Aguardiente Barón Rojo, Aguardiente Estrella, Guaro Gran Apache and Guaro Montano.
While safe traces of methanol can be found naturally in fruit juices, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic fermented drinks, it becomes a hazard when “higher concentrations are formed during incorrectly managed distillation processes,” the WHO reports. In other words, when bootleg alcohol is produced and sold to unsuspecting buyers.
Back in May, at least 10 American deaths occurred that were reportedly related to poisonous liquor served in Dominican Republic hotels, Rolling Stone reported.
Louisiana tourist Susan Simoneaux died a week after returning from her honeymoon in Punta Cana. Edward Holmes and Cynthia Day, who were also vacationing in the Caribbean country together, were found dead in their room on May 30.
Though their causes of death haven’t been firmly linked to methanol-laced alcohol, it is the running theory by the FBI, according to the New York Post, who are comparing alcohol samples from one of the resorts.
All three were found with liquid in their lungs, a condition known as pulmonary edema.
Similar reports of methanol poisoning by way of alcohol consumption occurred in Assam, India this past February. The outbreak resulted in at least 150 deaths and 200 hospitalizations.
According to Himanta Biswa Sharma, the state’s health minister, the victims were mostly tea plantation workers. The owner of a local brewery and 13 others related to the liquor-related incidents were arrested.
Deaths from bootleg liquor are quite common in India, as the poor cannot typically afford name-brand alcohol from government-owned stores. They look to counterfeit options given they’re cheap and often more potent.
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