It isn’t botulism, and now it appears tests were shonky, so what poisoned them?

When the family from Putaruru were first poisoned we were told by health officials that it was botulism…and not 1080 poisoning.

Later we were told that they tested for 1080 and the results were negative…now we know why that was:

Medical notes about a mystery poisoning that plunged three family members into a coma suggest inadequate testing, the family’s spokeswoman says.

Shibu Kochummen, 35, his wife Subi Babu, 33, and his mother Alekutty Daniel, 62, were found in a vegetative state on the floor of their Putaruru home on November 10 shortly after eating a wild boar curry.

Botulism was the original – but incorrect – diagnosis.  

And nerve conduction tests as early as November 13 – three days after the trio’s hospitalisation – indicated the illness wasn’t botulism, the family’s lawyer and spokeswoman Sue Grey said after obtaining the medical notes.

“The diagnosis was that there was no evidence to suggest botulism. A specialist was asked to look at [it] and that was his conclusion.

“That does raise questions about why the health board was continuing to say it was botulism for such a long time after they had so many results indicating it wasn’t.

“If that botulism thing [was] ruled out at the start when the first negative tests were coming in they would have had ACC by now.

“There are politics but you’d like to think that politics aren’t interfering with medicine.”

You would like to think that. Right now it all smacks of a big coverup. The results of testing were delivered literally on Christmas Eve.

The DHB have ruled the illness an unidentified poisoning from an unspecified neurotoxin.

The illness caused paralysis, vomiting, thrashing, memory loss and strange behaviour such as child-like laughing.

All symptoms of 1080 poisoning.

Grey said she hadn’t seen any food tests other than the negative botulism result from the pork dish consumed.

“When we met with the CEO on Wednesday he told us that MPI, the Ministry of Primary Industries, had done the food sample tests. So I’ve written and asked them for their information but I still haven’t got that back.”

While the MPI have an “informal” involvement in the case, they are not testing implicated food, a spokesperson said.

“The Waikato DHB is the lead agency and MPI had a very minimal involvement at the initial stages in working with ESR (Institute of Environmental Science and Research) on some testing procedures,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“We do not believe there are any public health concerns as this incident/issue appears to be confined to one particular family.”

Grey said she’s still going through the family’s notes but understands 1080 was an early suspected cause.

“That is really concerning because as far as we can ascertain at the moment, the only testing that was done on 1080 was that single test 18 days after [hospitalisation].”

Professor Steve Flint, an expert in food safety and microbiology at Massey University, said he hoped more food testing had been conducted by MPI or the DHB.

“My surprise – from what I’ve read from media reports – is that there isn’t a full scale investigation into this.

“I’m quite surprised that no one has actually looked at the food and analysed the food.”

They only tested for 1080 after 18 days! It was wild meat…that should have been the first thing tested, especially considering the animal was hunted in the area with the most coverage of 1080.

Toxins in some kind of plant could have caused the violent illness, Flint said.

“[Wild] mushrooms can also be quite toxic. You get almost hallucinogenic.

“There’s always the possibility of something that we haven’t discovered yet, something new.

“If it is, it would be unusual but this whole scenario is unusual.

“In a country like New Zealand, you often think about our native plants and things that people may not have reported any illnesses from.

“If it’s not botulism then what is it, because we need to know.”

There’s always the possibility that this family were poisoned by 1080, it is a better bet than botulism. This whole episode has a stench to it that is worse than rotten meat.

 

-Fairfax


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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