CASTRIES, St Lucia – St Lucia’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Merlene Fredericks has raised a public health alert following four unusual deaths just days apart, against the background of information that all the deceased had consumed an alcoholic beverage. The deaths occurred between last December 9-12.
According to reports, the four who all lived in Coolie Town, Marigot, located on the western coast of the island, drank alcohol after a funeral and died within a day of each other.
The Ministry of Health said the patients went to the Victoria Hospital at varying times with unusual symptoms, including sudden onset of blindness, abdominal pain. It said that in some cases, the patients rapidly became unconsciousness before dying.
Officials are said to be investigating a possible link between the deaths and the robbery of a toxic spirit from the north of the island last week.
“The symptoms seem in keeping with [the ingestion of] a poisonous substance. We do not believe that the individuals died of an infectious disease,” Dr Fredericks said. “We have heard rumors of [the possible ingestion of] a toxic substance, perhaps something that looks and smells like alcohol being stolen and shared, but we have no evidence at this point what the actual toxin may be.”
The Health Ministry has urged persons who believe they may have been exposed to the substance to visit a health facility where they can be examined, tested and managed.
While the ministry and police continue investigations, the Chief Medical Officer also advised persons against drinking alcohol, “especially consuming drinks from unrecognized sources”.