Hundreds die in Iran over false belief drinking methanol cures coronavirus
Health workers in Iran are warning people to not fall for coronavirus hoaxes, after 700 people died from alcohol poisoning amid claims drinking bootleg liquor can keep the virus at bay.
A report released by the Iranian Government earlier this month showed alcohol poisoning over a two-month period was 10 times the number of cases during the whole of 2019, likely spurred by the COVID-19 epidemic.
The national coroner’s authority said alcohol poisoning killed 728 Iranians between February 20 and April 7. Last year there were only 66 deaths from alcohol poisoning, according to the report.
“People think that alcohol causes immunity to corona, while drinking alcohol does not eliminate corona in the body,” a medical expert recently told the Government-aligned Tasnim News Agency.
This misconception has caused even children to drink alcohol … which can lead to death and blindness.
Along with Turkey, Iran is facing one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the Middle East with 5,806 deaths and more than 91,000 confirmed cases.
Iranian health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 525 people had died from swallowing toxic methanol alcohol since February 20, according to local state TV.
He said a total of 5,011 people had been poisoned from methanol alcohol, adding that about 90 people had lost their eyesight or were suffering eye damage from the alcohol poisoning.
Fake remedies have spread across social media in Iran, where people remain deeply suspicious of the Government after it downplayed the crisis before it overwhelmed the country.
The Iranian Government mandates that manufacturers of toxic methanol add an artificial colour to their products so the public can tell it apart from ethanol, the kind of alcohol that can be used in cleaning wounds.
Ethanol is also the kind of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, though its production is illegal in Iran, where consumption of alcohol is prohibited under strict Islamic law.
Minority Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians may drink alcoholic drinks in private, however, and there is a bootleg industry.
Some bootleggers in Iran use methanol, adding a splash of bleach to mask the added colour before selling it as drinkable.
Sometimes it is mixed with consumable alcohol to stretch supply, other times it comes as methanol, falsely advertised as drinkable. Methanol also can contaminate traditionally fermented alcohol.
Methanol poisoning causes delayed organ and brain damage and can cause symptoms like chest pain, hyperventilation, blindness and inducing a coma.
“Other countries have only one problem, which is the new coronavirus pandemic. But we are fighting on two fronts here,” said Dr Hossein Hassanian, an adviser to Iran’s Health Ministry.
We have to both cure the people with alcohol poisoning and also fight the coronavirus.
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Iran’s Government announced it would allow an increase in the production of alcohol for medical purposes.
The country currently has more than 40 alcohol-producing factories that have been allocated to pharmaceutical companies and the sanitising of items.
Even before the outbreak, the Iranian economy was struggling under severe US sanctions, blocking the sale of its crude oil abroad and limiting medical supplies.
On Thursday, US President Donald Trump came under fire for suggesting the possibility of injecting disinfectant to cure coronavirus, causing an international uproar with government agencies rushing to put out warnings against consuming disinfectants like bleach.