The people of Ute-Okpu Town in Ika North-East Local Government Area, Delta, South-South Nigeria, are living in fear over the ‘unexplained’ deaths of some members of the community.
The people claimed that between 18 and 35 persons had died mysteriously and attributed the deaths to some spiritual occurrence.
However, the State Government on Friday blamed the deaths on an outbreak of Yellow Fever and urged the people to stay calm.
Dr Ononye Mordi, the Delta State Commissioner for Health, said samples of victims had been collected and that preliminary investigations revealed Yellow Fever was responsible for the strange deaths
Mordi said the government had so far recorded 22 deaths with seven active cases.
He said efforts were being made by the government to ensure that the deaths were contained and that the situation did not escalate.
“We are carrying out awareness campaigns for effective containment.
“The test we carried out came out positive for Yellow Fever while further tests have been sent to a laboratory in Dakar, Senegal, for confirmatory tests.
“As at today, we have seven active cases while samples for further analysis have been sent to the Regional Laboratory for Centre for Disease Control in Dakar, Senegal, for confirmatory tests.
The commissioner said vomiting, mouth and nose bleeding, headache, feverish condition and body pains were observed among the patients
But the people of the town said there was more to the health crisis than Yellow Fever as the signs were not similar for all victims.
A member of the community, Sunday Ajuebo, who said the deaths took place in Ute-Alohen, Ute-Erumu, Ibiegwa and Idumuesa, argued that it might not be an epidemic but spiritual occurrence.
Ajuebo said an epidemic would have suggested that the people died in the same way with similar symptoms.
He said only one family lost two persons at different times and in different ways.
“They have told us it is Yellow Fever, but to some of us this is beyond mere epidemic, it looks spiritual.
“The deaths are quite strange, some people died from hiccups, others vomited blood and died and some died after test results on them indicated malaria, so they are not of common cause,” he said.
Ajuebo said the community had scheduled a stakeholders’ meeting to assess the situation and ask relevant questions that could unravel the mystery behind the deaths.