PETALING JAYA, Sept 18 — The Ministry of Health explained today that those affected by suspected alcohol poisoning were found to have a history of compounded hard liquor intake and showed symptoms of methanol poisoning.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said among the signs exhibited were stomach aches, nausea, headache, blurred vision, seizures, breathing difficulties and loss of consciousness.
“The early signs of poisoning will appear one or two days after consumption.
“We have also informed all health facilities to prep up to provide medical treatment to those who are visiting hospitals or clinics for possible signs of methanol poisoning,” he said in a statement.
Adding that the number of cases may rise as more patients with similar symptoms seek treatment, Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry has received a total of 51 such cases as of 5pm today.
“Selangor recorded the highest number at 45 cases and Kuala Lumpur at six cases. From the total, 48 were foreigners from Myanmar, Nepalis, Bangladeshi and Indian nationals, while the remainder were locals.
“As of now, 19 have died, 14 are in critical condition, nine admitted for observation and nine were allowed to return home after receiving medical attention,” he said.
Earlier, Selangor police chief Commissioner Datuk Pahlawan Mazlan Mansor said police have identified three brands of alcoholic beverages consumed.
They were Mandalay Whiskey, Kingfisher beer, and Grand Royal Whiskey.
Dr Noor Hisham said blood and urine samples have been taken from the patients for further analysis at the Hospital Sungai Buloh forensics lab.
“We have also taken samples of the alcoholic drinks to be analysed at the National Public Health Laboratory in Sungai Buloh to determine the contents of the beverage,” he said.
According to Dr Noor Hisham, he said the number of cases involved was expected to increase when more patients seek treatment and the ministry will continue to cooperate with the relevant authorities to monitor the situation.
Initial investigations conducted by the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Departments of Health found that all the patients involved had purchased compounded hard liquor from premises located around Klang Valley and Selangor.
“The ministry through its Food Safety and Quality Division are currently strengthening enforcement on alcoholic beverages being sold which do not comply with the Food Act 1983, especially products suspected of being in violation of the terms under the Food Regulation 1985.
Under Section 13 of the Food Act 1983, “any person who prepares or sells any food that has in it or upon it any substance which is poisonous, harmful or otherwise injurious to health commits an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding RM100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, or to both”.
“Police reports have also been lodged by the ministry to identify the distributors, manufacturers and the source of the poisoning while restricting the supply of contaminated alcoholic beverage in the market.
“The ministry also advise the public to avoid consuming any alcoholic drinks that may contain traces of methanol, which will bring health complications and result in death,” Dr Noor Hisham added, saying the latest updates will be announced by the ministry from time to time.