More than 700 people have died in Iran after ingesting toxic methanol, erroneously thinking it can cure the new coronavirus. The national coroner’s authority said that 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. Alcohol poisoning has seen a 10-fold increase in Iran in the past year, according to a government report released earlier in April, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Iranian health ministry spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, said 5,011 people had been poisoned from methanol alcohol, adding that some 90 people have lost their eyesight or are suffering eye damage from the alcohol poisoning. Hossein Hassanian, a health ministry adviser, said the final tally of people who lost their eyesight could be much higher.

Iran is facing the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East with 5,806 deaths and more than 91,000 confirmed cases. Methanol cannot be smelled or tasted in drinks.

It causes delayed organ and brain damage. Symptoms include chest pain, nausea, hyperventilation, blindness and even coma. Last Thursday, US President Donald Trump raised the possibility of injecting disinfectant into patients, causing an international uproar with manufacturers, doctors and government agencies rushing out warnings against consuming disinfectants like bleach.

In Iran, the 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.

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