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Death toll rises to 47 due to liquor adulterated with methanol

December 21, 2020

At least 47 people have died since October in Costa Rica from the consumption of alcoholic beverages adulterated with methanol, the Health Ministry reported.

The agency indicated that it registered 89 cases of suspected methanol poisoning — of which 47 died, comprising 40 men and seven women — all since the month of October.

The poisonings stem the consumption of a sugarcane distillate called guaro that has illegally been adulterated with methanol. Police and health authorities have mobilized in San José and nearby cities in the Greater Metropolitan Area where the cases have been detected.

The Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) inspected 706 commercial establishments and seized more than 16,000 products on suspicion of being used in methanol poisoning, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

Authorities advise against consuming the following liquor brands: Guaro Chonete, Guaro Cuerazo, Guaro Sacheto, Guaro Gran Apache, Aguardiente Estrella Roja, Guaro Montano, Aguardiente Barón Rojo, Aguardiente Timbuka, Aguardiente Molotov or Guaro Fiesta Blanca.

Contact 9-1-1 if a person or establishment is selling counterfeit and/or methanol-tainted liquor. The Health Ministry says it has responded to nearly 150 alerts registered through 9-1-1 in recent weeks.

Methanol poisoning can cause severe vomiting, agitation, disorientation, blindness, seizures, or visual disturbances, and in many cases leads to death.

When a spate of methanol intoxications occurred last year, the U.S. Embassy indicated they didn’t affect U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Costa Rica.

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