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19 deaths in Costa Rica said to be linked to tainted alcohol

19 deaths in Costa Rica said to be linked to tainted alcohol
Costa Rica (Image source: Instagram – @visit_costarica)

Nineteen people have died in Costa Rica from drinking tainted alcohol in the last couple of months, according to the Ministry of Health.

Officials with the Ministry of Health confirmed that 14 men and five women ranging in age from 32 to 72 have died due to suspected methanol poisoning in the span of five weeks, according to the New York Times and Washington Post. Their investigation is ongoing.

The government adds that 14 of the dead have come since early June, including seven who died in San Jose, the most populous city in the Central American country that is sandwiched between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. There is no word about how many, if any, of those who died were American tourists.

CBS News said the Costa Rican government has confiscated more than 30,000 bottles of suspected contaminated brands, including well-known local spirits like Aguardiente Timbuka, Guaro Montano, Aguardiente Molotov, Aguardiente Barón Rojo, Guaro Gran Apache and Star Welsh.

Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil, an associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine, told Fox News that methanol is toxic alcohol often used in antifreeze and cleaning solvents. CBS News said methanol is an ingredient used among bootleggers to dilute alcohol to increase its potency and thereby raises their profit margins.

“The problem with methanol is that it’s so much more dangerous than alcohol,” Nampiaparampil said. “It can make you blind, it can damage your kidneys, and you might not even realize this at first and then you can die.”

Nampiaparampil added that bootleggers are not killing people on purpose, but the end result is often serious injuries to the liver and brain, permanent blindness, and death.

“Most likely this is related to some type of manufacturing error, that when they were trying to make ethanol they accidentally made some methanol,” Nampiaparampil said. “So that can happen in some counterfeit liquors.”

Costa Rica’s President Carlos Alvarado Quesada said on Twitter that he “deeply regrets” the lost lives and is ordering the country’s health minister to continue collecting information to find out who is responsible.

This is a conspicuous contrast from the stance adopted by the Dominican Republic, where tainted alcohol is suspected in a rash of unexplained deaths there this past spring. There is still no explanation given for the deaths. There has also been a spate of sudden deaths under similar circumstances at some resorts in Mexico, Fox News states.

As rolling out has reported, the Dominican Republic government instituted a set of new safety standards after at least 13 American tourists died mysteriously at their resorts since 2018.

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