The Bayelsa Government Warns Residents Against Consuming Dead Whales, Citing Potential Mercury Poisoning Risks

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The Bayelsa Government Warns Residents Against Consuming Dead Whales, Citing Potential Mercury Poisoning Risks

The Ministry of Health in Bayelsa State has issued a warning to residents against consuming a dead whale discovered on the shores of the coastal Okpoama community in Brass Local Government Area.

According to the government, eating the whale could lead to health risks such as mercury poisoning, botulism, and bacterial infections.

Additionally, the state government has disputed Bayelsa’s inclusion on the list of states affected by a cholera epidemic, as reported by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in its recent disease surveillance report.

Dr. Toyin Azebi, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, addressed this issue during a joint press briefing following a meeting of the Bayelsa Taskforce on Immunisation and Health Services chaired by Deputy Governor Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo at Government House in Yenagoa.

Dr. Azebi emphasized that there has been no confirmed cholera outbreak in Bayelsa recently, contrary to the NCDC’s report which incorrectly listed the state among those with high cholera cases.

She clarified that all 449 suspected cases of cholera reported in the state since January have tested negative for cholera through clinical laboratory tests, confirming them as cases of gastrointestinal diarrhea instead.

The Ministry has communicated with the NCDC regarding this discrepancy and stated that the NCDC acknowledged the error in their initial report. They agreed to issue a correction, which had not been done at the time of the press briefing.

She said: “The NCDC report is a gross misrepresentation of the Bayelsa data, and we have tackled them on it. They have reviewed our data with us and will soon do another pronouncement excluding us as a state with a cholera outbreak.

“Since January 2024, there have been 449 suspected cases of cholera reported across the eight LGAs. Importantly, only two new suspected cases were reported in the most recent week, indicating no new cases. We are able to even report these cases of watery diarrhea because of our optimized surveillance system across the state. Extensive testing has been conducted to confirm cholera cases. Out of 42 Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) carried out, only 14 returned positive.  Crucially, all 14 positives from the Rapid Diagnostic tests turned out negative when subjected to culture test.

“Culture tests are the gold standard for cholera diagnosis, and no cases have been confirmed by this method. And this attests to no outbreak. In summary, the cholera situation in Bayelsa State is under control with no culture confirmed positive. The state government is taking active and comprehensive steps to manage the situation effectively, ensuring public health and safety.”

Dr. Azebi commented on the discovery of a dead whale on the shores of the coastal Okpoama community in Brass Local Government Area, cautioning against reports of it being butchered for consumption.

She warned against consuming the dead whale, highlighting potential risks including mercury poisoning, botulism, and bacterial infections that pose serious health dangers to the community.

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