The people of the agrarian communities of Ute Okpu, Ute Erumru and Idumesa in the Ika North-East Local Government Area of Delta State are currently in a sad mood. This is because many young men and women from the three communities have died in the past two weeks.
Over 30 persons aged between 18 and 30 years have reportedly died of what was termed a strange disease in the communities within the same local government area.
Two of those who died as a result of the strange ailment were identified as Ifeoma Emeka and Onyeka Emeka from the same parents in the Ute-Opu community.
When our correspondent visited the affected communities, families and sympathisers were seen in a sober state over the demise of their loved ones.
A mother, Mrs Veronic Emeka, who lost two of her children, said that while the girl died on September 30, the boy died three days after.
Some officials of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control led by the state Commissioner for health, Dr. Mordi Ononye, visited the communities last Sunday to know the cause of the deaths.
Emeka said, “Ifeoma died on Wednesday while her brother Onyeka died three day after. Within two weeks, there are over 30 persons who have died mysteriously in the community.
“The girl complained of a headache, cold and weakness. We took her to a Catholic hospital in Agbor where she died after four days, but the boy died the same day he complained of weakness. They went for tests in the hospital, and they said it was malaria.
“The boy complained of head and weakness and died the same day but the girl stayed for three day before she died. They were not vomiting.
“Death is killing our young people daily in the communities. Our young people are dying. Government should bring drugs so that our people can get treatment. I am the only person who lost two children to the strange disease in the neighbourhood. We appeal to the government and the governor, Ifeanyi Okowa to stop deaths in our communities.’’
Also, Mrs Ijeoma Okoh, told our correspondent that around 11am her 26-year-old son Chiwendu Okoh was constantly vomiting before he died.
She said, “My son was only vomiting water because he wasn’t eating anything. His brother said we should take him to the General Hospital, Agbor. When we got there, the doctors said it was not a serious case and gave him drugs. It was at midnight that he started gasping.
“We returned to the hospital where he was given drugs and the gasping stopped. We gave him pap and rice. Around 4am, he started stretching himself, people held him and unfortunately he died after some time.
“I went to the Obi’s Place to narrate what happened. People have been coming and I talked about what happened. I am tired of explanation. I don’t want to talk to anybody again. Will they feed me? Government should help us fast.
“The boy was hard working. He wanted to launch his album on November 22. We have buried him because there was no point keeping him in the mortuary.’’
Also narrating his ordeal, father of the late 25-year-old Uzor Ifeanyi, Alibueze alleged that his son died as a result of a doctor’s negligence.
He said, “He was sick for two weeks before he died in Agbor hospital. He complained of cold and vomited. He didn’t drink anything. He only ate noodles. He stayed one week in the hospital before vomiting blood.
“They referred him to the Federal Medical Centre, Asaba, where we stayed for over three hours at the emergency ward. No doctor or nurse attended to us. After that, we went to another hospital in Agbor.
“The money we spent to treat him was about N200, 000. It is lack of attention and drugs that made me lose my son. When we came, the doctor told us that he was coming and we didn’t see him for three hours even when he saw that my son was vomiting blood. I will never partake in any election again in this country. This is the time for government to do everything to stop the cases.’’
Commenting on the development, National Youths President, Ute-Okpu Worldwide, Mike Ikeogwu, said from investigation carried out in the villages, the deaths were not similar.
He said, “We have yet to discover the cause of the death. From the investigation we carried out in the villages, somebody complained of a headache and died while another was down with cold and others vomited blood.
He appreciated the state government for deploying a team of medical workers to the area and collecting samples.
Ikeogwu stated, “I want to advise our people to be mindful of what they eat and drink. I learnt that the governor has approved the upgrading of the health centre in the village to a general hospital. The health centre in the town is inadequate.’’
He also appealed to the government to address the issue, urging politicians in the area to rise to the occasion.
On his part, the state Epidemiologist, Dr. Richard Ikwuogu, said they were still investigating the case, adding “It is when we draw a conclusion from what we have that we can talk of drugs and other things.’’
Giving an update on the development, the state Commissioner for health, Dr. Mordi Ononye, said the sample results linked the deaths to yellow fever.
Ononye stated this on Friday at a news conference in Asaba on the matter.
He said, “The preliminary sample test carried out linked the mysterious death to yellow fever. Samples have been sent to the World Health Organisation Regional Reference Laboratory Center in Dakar, Senegal, for further confirmation.
“We are taking steps to prevent the incident from escalating. The disease had claimed about 20 cases with over seven active cases being attended to at the Federal Medical Hospital, Asaba.’’
The commissioner further said that a team of health experts had been deployed to the affected communities to curtail the situation, noting that the state government would commence immunisation exercise against yellow fever in the next few days.