In a telephone interview, the community leader, Ayodele Omole, stated that the “strange ailment” broke out on Wednesday morning and had already created panic among residents, adding that many people were fleeing from the community. In a radio broadcast, the Ondo State Commissioner for Health, Dayo Adeyanju, confirmed the outbreak, but assured residents that it was not Ebola.
Even though the source of the epidemic has not been determined, Mr. Omole stated that many residents had blamed it on an “evil spiritual attack.”
“We noticed the strange ailment yesterday (Wednesday),” said Mr. Omole. “Several people lost their sight before they died instantly.
“As at the last count, in the early hours of today (Thursday), more than 25 dead bodies were counted in the streets of Irele.
“Unlike yesterday, people are now scared of carrying the bodies because of fear of infections. Some residents have fled the community for Ore town while others are planning to leave for Akure for total safety.”
He stated that, in addition causing blindness, the unknown disease also caused victims’ tongues to swell abnormally, rendering the victims incapable of speech, prior to death within a few hours.
Mr. Omole said many in the community saw the ailment as having “a spiritual cause,” adding that they believed it was beyond the control of state health officials. He added that the residents were hoping that some traditional healers would quickly come in to help.
A young resident in the town said the gods in the community were angry because “some section of the shrine was recently destroyed and some sacred objects stolen by unknown people.” He said some worshipers of the deity and traditional priests were meeting to discover those behind the theft.
Meanwhile, the state government has confirmed the outbreak of the “unknown disease,” adding that it was on top of the situation.
In a broadcast on a state-owned radio station in Akure, the state capital, the Ondo State Commissioner for Health, Mr. Adeyanju, said the ravaging disease was not Ebola as some feared. The commissioner stated that health officials and equipment had been deployed to the community to curtail the spread of the strange disease.
“The community outbreak team informed us yesterday morning of disease outbreak in Irele. The unknown disease isn’t Ebola as it doesn’t manifest any of its symptoms, but only attacks the central nervous system of the victims.
“We can’t really say what is responsible for this ailment. It was clear that those who had died had no symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea,” said Mr. Adeyanju, adding that the symptoms of the ailment included headaches and loss of sight prior to death.
“The disease has been spread to the whole town and it has been very difficult to trace it to a particular source because it had already spread across the whole local government of Irele,” he said.
The health commissioner disclosed that investigations had commenced to determine the cause and source of the strange epidemic stressing that blood samples from some victims have been taken to a laboratory in Lagos for tests.
UPDATE: The epidemic has claimed two more victims today by 12 noon Nigerian time