Costa Rican Health Ministry says it has confirmed that the 19 deaths are from consuming of alcohol tainted with toxic levels of methanol, and have issued a national alert.
The ministry said in a Friday report that the investigation continues, but so far it has counted 14 men and five women who have died after drinking adulterated liquor since early June. The victims ranged from 32 to 72 years of age.
The government has confiscated about 30,000 bottles of alcohol believed to be tainted, affecting multiple brands whose samples tested positive for methanol adulteration, CNN reported.
Those brands are Guaro Montano, Guaro Gran Apache, Aguardiente Estrella, Aguardiente Barón Rojo, Aguardiente Timbuka and Molotov Aguardiente. Vendors who sell the drinks could face criminal sanctions, ABC News reported.
Adulterated liquor often contains methanol, which can make people feel inebriated. Adding methanol to distilled spirits enables sellers to increase the amount of liquid and its potential potency, according to SafeProof, a group that lobbies against counterfeit alcohol.
Methanol poisoning can cause confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, headaches and the inability to coordinate muscle movements. Even small amounts can be toxic.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), outbreaks of methanol poisoning are usually linked to “adulterated counterfeit or informally-produced spirit drinks.”
Victims often only seek treatment after a delay, as symptoms of methanol poisoning tend to appear long after methanol has been consumed, according to the World Health Organization.
Cover photo: Costa Rica Ministry of Health