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Outbreak of Cyanide Poisoning Caused by Consumption of Cassava Flour — Kasese District, Uganda, September 2017

Outbreak of Cyanide Poisoning Caused by Consumption of Cassava Flour — Kasese District, Uganda,... Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Outbreak of Cyanide Poisoning Caused by Consumption of Cassava Flour — Kasese District, Uganda, September 2017 1 1 1 1 2,3 Phoebe H. Alitubeera, MSc ; Patricia Eyu, MPH ; Benon Kwesiga, MPH ; Alex R. Ario, MD ; Bao-Ping Zhu, MD recommended treatment for acute cyanide toxicity is hydroxo- Cassava (Manihot esculenta), an edible tuberous root that is cobalamin (injectable vitamin B12) (4), persons who went to resistant to drought, diseases, and pests, is a major source of health care facilities were managed on intravenous antibiotics carbohydrates in tropical areas, the second most widely grown and oral rehydration salts. and consumed food in Uganda after bananas, and a staple in The outbreak affected all age groups; the attack rate was the diet for approximately 57% of the Uganda population similar in males and females, and in all three subcounties, (Figure 1) (1). On September 5, 2017, a funeral was held in but was lower in persons aged 19–44 years (5.5 per 10,000 Kasese District in western Uganda. Following the funeral, population) than in younger or older persons (≤18 years, 15.1 33 persons with symptoms that included diarrhea, vomit- and ≥45 years, 12.1) (p = 0.003) (Table 1). Illness onset began ing, and abdominal pains were admitted to Bwera Hospital a few hours after the funeral on September 5, and continued in Kasese District. On September 8, the Uganda Ministry of through September 8 (Figure 2). Among funeral attendees, a Health received notification from the Kasese District health peak in cases occurred a few hours after the evening meal at the team regarding this outbreak of suspected food poisoning. An funeral; among nonattendees, three successively diminishing investigation to determine the cause of the outbreak and recom- peaks occurred, each a few hours after the evening meals on mend control measures revealed that the outbreak resulted from September 6, 7, and 8 (Figure 2). consumption of a cassava dish made by combining hot water A case-control study was conducted to identify the likely with cassava flour. The implicated batch of cassava flour was source of the outbreak. Two age-matched (within 5 years) con- traced back to a single wholesaler and found to contain high trols for each case-patient were selected from among neighbors cyanogenic content. Informed by the investigation findings, of case-patients who had eaten cassava during September 1–9 police confiscated all cassava flour from retailers identified but did not develop vomiting or diarrhea. A total of 88 case- as the patients’ source of the flour. Health education about patients and 176 controls were interviewed in person regard- cyanide poisoning from cassava and the need to adequately ing potential exposures. To account for the matched design, process cassava to reduce cyanogenic content was conducted Mantel-Haenszel odds ratios (ORs) and the associated 95% by public health officials. confidence intervals (CIs) were computed, where the strati- fication variable was the match-set. Analyses were performed Epidemiologic Investigation using CDC’s Epi Info software. An investigation into the outbreak was conducted by fellows Case-patients were more likely than were controls to have of the Uganda Public Health Fellowship Program and their attended the funeral (OR = 40; 95% CI = 5.4–298) and to supervisors. A probable case was defined as sudden onset of have purchased their cassava flour from retailers that were sup- vomiting or diarrhea with one or more of the following signs plied by wholesaler A (OR = infinity; 95% CI = 5.6–infinity) or symptoms in a resident of one of three Kasese District sub- (Table 2). When the data were stratified by funeral atten- counties during September 1–9, 2017: myalgia, tachycardia, dance, all funeral attendees were noted to have eaten cassava tachypnea, headache, dizziness, lethargy, convulsions, or syn- purchased from a retailer supplied by wholesaler A. Among cope. Medical records at Bwera Hospital, which has a catch- nonattendees, 100% of case-patients and 79.2% of controls ment area covering the three subcounties, were systematically bought cassava flour from retailers supplied by wholesaler A reviewed. Active case-searching was conducted with the help during the outbreak period (OR = infinity; Fisher’s exact of community leaders. 95% CI = 4.3–infinity). The investigation identified 98 probable cases, with two deaths (case-fatality rate = 2%). The median patient age was Traceback and Laboratory Investigations 10 years (range = 11 months–75 years). Reported signs or The Uganda Public Health Fellowship Program investiga- symptoms included vomiting (95%), diarrhea (87%), malaise tors conducted interviews with area retailers and wholesalers (60%), dizziness (48%), tachypnea (27%), syncope (16%), and regarding their sources of cassava, and the implicated product tachycardia (10%); 6% of patients reported fever. These signs was further traced back to its source. Two primary sources and symptoms suggested cyanide poisoning (3). Although the 308 MMWR / April 5, 2019 / Vol. 68 / No. 13 US Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report FIGURE 1. Approximately 600 million tropical residents, half of whom cost less than other batches for sale at the time, investigators live in Africa, rely on cassava as their main food source speculated that it might have been from “wild” cultivars. This suspicion was corroborated by funeral attendees, who described the cassava flour dish served at the funeral as pure white, which is typical of flour from wild cultivars, instead of the creamy- colored flour from sweet cultivars. Cassava flour samples were obtained for visual inspection and spectrophotometric cyanide testing by the Government Analytical Laboratory in Uganda. The five samples obtained from the implicated batch were pure white in color and con- tained cyanogenic glycoside that was equivalent to an average of 88 ppm of cyanide (range = 85–90), more than eight times the recommended safe level of 10 ppm (2). Informed by findings of this investigation, police in Kasese District confiscated all sacks of cassava flour from retailers where affected families had purchased the product. Health education was conducted in the communities about cyanide poisoning from cassava and the need to adequately process Photo/Uganda Public Health Fellowship Program cassava to reduce the cyanide content. TABLE 1. Attack rates of cyanide poisoning, by age group, sex, and Discussion subcounty during an outbreak caused by eating a cassava flour dish that contained high cyanogenic content — Kasese District, Uganda, The epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory investigations September 2017 indicated that this outbreak of cyanide poisoning resulted from Attack rate eating cassava with a high cyanogenic content. Patients’ signs No. of (per 10,000 Characteristic cases Population* population) and symptoms included dizziness, vomiting, tachypnea, syn- Total 98 84,032 11.7 cope, and tachycardia and were consistent with acute cyanide Age group (yrs) poisoning (3,5); the absence of fever made infectious etiology 0–5 23 15,464 14.9 unlikely. Symptoms occurred a few hours after meals during 5–18 49 32,134 15.2 19–44 15 27,321 5.5 which a cassava flour dish was served. This finding was con- ≥45 11 9112 12.1 sistent with previous reports, with symptoms typically starting Sex 4–6 hours after ingesting a meal, as the cyanide is released upon Male 43 41,092 10.5 digestion of the cyanogenic glycosides (6). The case-control Female 55 42,940 12.8 Subcounty study strongly linked the outbreak to cassava flour supplied Bwera 25 17,883 13.7 by wholesaler A, and the traceback investigation suggested Ihandiro 19 13,881 14.0 that the implicated cassava might have originated in Tanzania. Mpondwe Lubiriha Trading Centre 54 52,268 10.3 The laboratory investigation found high levels of cyanogenic * Projected 2017 population based on the 2014 census. Differences were statistically significant by Chi-square test (p = 0.003). glycosides in the implicated cassava flour. Differences were not statistically significant by Chi-square test (p>0.05). Cassava crops are resistant to drought, pests, and diseases, making cassava invaluable for food security, especially in areas were identified. Farmers grew their own cassava, known as plagued by food shortages (7). Approximately 600 million “sweet” cultivars. Residents also bought cassava from retailers, tropical residents, half of whom live in Africa, rely on cas- especially for serving at communal gatherings when a large sava as their main food source (8). Acute cyanide poisoning, quantity was needed. The retailers bought their cassava flour often with fatal consequences, can occur after eating a large from wholesalers, who mainly bought from cassava mills in amount of cassava, especially in communities dependent on a Kasese town, approximately 31 miles (50 km) away. During the monotonous cassava diet (9). Recurrent exposure to nonlethal outbreak period, wholesaler A was the main supplier to retailers concentrations through a monotonous cassava-based diet leads in the three subcounties. Wholesaler A reportedly bought the to long-term effects, including paralytic diseases such as tropical implicated batch from a town bordering Uganda and Tanzania, ataxic neuropathy and konzo, a neurologic disease character- approximately 174 miles (280 km) from Kasese; the implicated ized by sudden onset of irreversible, nonprogressive spastic batch was further traced back to Tanzania. Because this batch US Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention MMWR / April 5, 2019 / Vol. 68 / No. 13 309 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report FIGURE 2. Number of cases of cyanide poisoning from eating a cassava flour dish, by date and 4-hour interval of symptom onset, among funeral attendees and nonattendees — Kasese District, Uganda, September 5–8, 2017 Nonattendees Funeral attendees Dinner at funeral Dinner Dinner 12–3 am 8–11 am 4–7 pm 12–3 am 8–11 am 4–7 pm 12–3 am 8–11 am 4–7 pm 12–3 am 8–11 am 4–7 pm September 5 September 6 September 7 September 8 Date/4-hour interval of symptom onset TABLE 2. Exposure factors among case-patients and controls during Summary a cyanide poisoning outbreak caused by eating a cassava flour dish that contained high cyanogenic content — Kasese District, Uganda, What is already known about this topic? September 2017 Cassava, an edible tuberous root often made into flour, contains Case-patients Controls cyanogenic glycosides, which can result in fatal cyanide (N = 88) (N = 176) poisoning if not properly detoxified by soaking, drying, and Exposure factors No. (%) No. (%) OR (95% CI) scraping before being consumed. Acute cassava-associated Attendance at September 5 funeral cyanide poisoning outbreaks are rarely described. Yes 21 (23.9) 3 (1.7) 40 (5.4–298*) No 67 (76.1) 173 (98.3) Referent What is added by this report? Source of cassava during outbreak period In September 2017, an outbreak of suspected cyanide poisoning, Ever purchased cassava 88 (100.0) 141 (80.1) Infinity involving 98 cases with two deaths, occurred in western Uganda. from retailers supplied by (5.4–infinity*) Epidemiologic and laboratory investigation identified consump- wholesaler A tion of a cassava flour dish made from wild cultivars of cassava Never purchased cassava 0 (0) 35 (19.9) Referent from retailers supplied by with high cyanogenic content as the cause of the outbreak. wholesaler A What are the implications for public health practice? †,§ Among funeral nonattendees Ever purchased cassava 67 (100.0) 137 (79.2) Infinity Education of farmers and consumers about the importance of from retailers supplied by (4.3–infinity ) strict adherence to established methods of degrading cyanogenic wholesaler A glycosides in cassava is essential to prevent cyanide poisoning. Never purchased cassava 0 (0) 36 (20.8) Referent from retailers supplied by wholesaler A Although wild cassava cultivars have greater yield, higher Abbreviations: CI = confidence interval; OR = odds ratio. resistance to pests, and longer storability in the soil than do * Mantel-Haenszel OR and CI. 67 case-patients and 173 controls. sweet cultivars, they are bitter, and hence, have a lower market Association between eating cassava from wholesaler A and illness could not value. In addition, the cyanogenic content of wild cultivars is as be assessed among attendees at funeral because all funeral attendees ate cassava from wholesaler A. high as 2,000 ppm of dry weight (1), 200 times the safe level Fisher’s exact OR and CI. (<10 ppm) recommended by the World Health Organization (2). Therefore, wild cultivars are not recommended for human paralysis (2). In sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Uganda, consumption. However, some farmers still plant wild cultivars Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, thou- because of their resilience and high yield (1). sands of persons might have experienced cyanide poisoning Although the cyanogenic content of sweet cassava is substan- from cassava (7,8), but the full extent of the problem remains tially less than that of wild cultivars (up to 100 ppm) (1), the unknown because reliable data are lacking. sweet cassava cultivars still require detoxification before they 310 MMWR / April 5, 2019 / Vol. 68 / No. 13 US Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention No. of cases Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report are consumed; this involves peeling the tubers, soaking them All authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE form for disclosure of potential conflicts of interest. No potential conflicts of in water for 4–6 days, and sun-drying or roasting them. The interest were disclosed. outer layer is then scraped off and the remainder ground into flour. This process promotes enzymatic degradation of cya- References nogenic glycosides. If the soaking or drying time is too short, 1. Tumwesigye SK. Three decades of toxic cyanide management in Uganda. enzymatic degradation will be inadequate, and cyanogenic Doing and communicating more with minimal strategies. Has it been glycosides remain high (5). During droughts, cassava traders possible? Cassava Cyanide Diseases and Neurolathyrism Network 2014;24:4–9. http://ipbo.vib-ugent.be/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/ sometimes fail to follow recommended procedures, which can CCDN-News-24-December-2014.pdf result in a product with high levels of cyanogenic glycosides 2. Cliff J, Muquingue H, Nhassico D, Nzwalo H, Bradbury JH. Konzo and that can lead to cyanide poisoning (1). continuing cyanide intoxication from cassava in Mozambique. Food Chem Toxicol 2011;49:631–5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2010.06.056 A rapid, semiquantitative, colorimetric test that is free to work- 3. CDC. Emergency preparedness and response: facts about cyanide. ers in developing countries can be used by relatively untrained Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; persons to quickly determine the cyanogenic potential of cassava 2018. https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/cyanide/basics/facts.asp 4. Jones KR. Hydroxocobalamin (Cyanokit): a new antidote for cyanide flour (10). Wholesalers and government food inspectors can toxicity. Advanced Emergency Nursing Journal 2008;30:112–21. use this method to routinely measure cyanogenic content of 5. Ariffin WA, Choo KE, Karnaneedi S. Cassava (ubi kayu) poisoning in commercial cassava flour. Farmers and consumers in areas that children. Med J Malaysia 1992;47:231–4. depend upon cassava should be warned about cyanide poisoning 6. Nzwalo H, Cliff J. Konzo: from poverty, cassava, and cyanogen intake to toxico-nutritional neurological disease. PLoS Negl Trop Dis caused by eating improperly processed or wild-cultivar cassava, 2011;5:e1051. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0001051 and instructed to strictly adhere to the established processing 7. Tshala-Katumbay D, Mumba N, Okitundu L, et al. Cassava food toxins, methods to degrade cyanogenic glycosides. konzo disease, and neurodegeneration in sub-Sahara Africans. Neurology 2013;80:949–51. https://doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182840b81 Acknowledgments 8. Tshala-Katumbay DD, Ngombe NN, Okitundu D, et al. Cyanide and the human brain: perspectives from a model of food (cassava) poisoning. Kasese district health office and police department; Uganda Ann N Y Acad Sci 2016;1378:50–7. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13159 Government Analytical Laboratory. 9. Burns A, Gleadow R, Cliff J, Zacarias A, Cavagnaro T. Cassava: the drought, war and famine crop in a changing world. Sustainability Corresponding author: Phoebe H. Alitubeera, alitpheebz@gmail.com; 2010;2:3572–607. https://doi.org/10.3390/su2113572 akuzehilda@musph.ac.ug. 10. Egan SV, Yeoh HH, Bradbury JH. Simple picrate paper kit 1 2 Uganda Public Health Fellowship Program, Kampala, Uganda; CDC Uganda, for determination of the cyanogenic potential of cassava flour. Kampala, Uganda; Division of Global Health Protection, Center for Global J Sci Food Agric 1998;76:39–48. https://doi.org/10.1002/ Health, CDC. (SICI)1097-0010(199801)76:1<39::AID-JSFA947>3.0.CO;2-M US Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention MMWR / April 5, 2019 / Vol. 68 / No. 13 311 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Pubmed Central

Outbreak of Cyanide Poisoning Caused by Consumption of Cassava Flour — Kasese District, Uganda, September 2017

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report , Volume 68 (13) – Apr 5, 2019

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0149-2195
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Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Outbreak of Cyanide Poisoning Caused by Consumption of Cassava Flour — Kasese District, Uganda, September 2017 1 1 1 1 2,3 Phoebe H. Alitubeera, MSc ; Patricia Eyu, MPH ; Benon Kwesiga, MPH ; Alex R. Ario, MD ; Bao-Ping Zhu, MD recommended treatment for acute cyanide toxicity is hydroxo- Cassava (Manihot esculenta), an edible tuberous root that is cobalamin (injectable vitamin B12) (4), persons who went to resistant to drought, diseases, and pests, is a major source of health care facilities were managed on intravenous antibiotics carbohydrates in tropical areas, the second most widely grown and oral rehydration salts. and consumed food in Uganda after bananas, and a staple in The outbreak affected all age groups; the attack rate was the diet for approximately 57% of the Uganda population similar in males and females, and in all three subcounties, (Figure 1) (1). On September 5, 2017, a funeral was held in but was lower in persons aged 19–44 years (5.5 per 10,000 Kasese District in western Uganda. Following the funeral, population) than in younger or older persons (≤18 years, 15.1 33 persons with symptoms that included diarrhea, vomit- and ≥45 years, 12.1) (p = 0.003) (Table 1). Illness onset began ing, and abdominal pains were admitted to Bwera Hospital a few hours after the funeral on September 5, and continued in Kasese District. On September 8, the Uganda Ministry of through September 8 (Figure 2). Among funeral attendees, a Health received notification from the Kasese District health peak in cases occurred a few hours after the evening meal at the team regarding this outbreak of suspected food poisoning. An funeral; among nonattendees, three successively diminishing investigation to determine the cause of the outbreak and recom- peaks occurred, each a few hours after the evening meals on mend control measures revealed that the outbreak resulted from September 6, 7, and 8 (Figure 2). consumption of a cassava dish made by combining hot water A case-control study was conducted to identify the likely with cassava flour. The implicated batch of cassava flour was source of the outbreak. Two age-matched (within 5 years) con- traced back to a single wholesaler and found to contain high trols for each case-patient were selected from among neighbors cyanogenic content. Informed by the investigation findings, of case-patients who had eaten cassava during September 1–9 police confiscated all cassava flour from retailers identified but did not develop vomiting or diarrhea. A total of 88 case- as the patients’ source of the flour. Health education about patients and 176 controls were interviewed in person regard- cyanide poisoning from cassava and the need to adequately ing potential exposures. To account for the matched design, process cassava to reduce cyanogenic content was conducted Mantel-Haenszel odds ratios (ORs) and the associated 95% by public health officials. confidence intervals (CIs) were computed, where the strati- fication variable was the match-set. Analyses were performed Epidemiologic Investigation using CDC’s Epi Info software. An investigation into the outbreak was conducted by fellows Case-patients were more likely than were controls to have of the Uganda Public Health Fellowship Program and their attended the funeral (OR = 40; 95% CI = 5.4–298) and to supervisors. A probable case was defined as sudden onset of have purchased their cassava flour from retailers that were sup- vomiting or diarrhea with one or more of the following signs plied by wholesaler A (OR = infinity; 95% CI = 5.6–infinity) or symptoms in a resident of one of three Kasese District sub- (Table 2). When the data were stratified by funeral atten- counties during September 1–9, 2017: myalgia, tachycardia, dance, all funeral attendees were noted to have eaten cassava tachypnea, headache, dizziness, lethargy, convulsions, or syn- purchased from a retailer supplied by wholesaler A. Among cope. Medical records at Bwera Hospital, which has a catch- nonattendees, 100% of case-patients and 79.2% of controls ment area covering the three subcounties, were systematically bought cassava flour from retailers supplied by wholesaler A reviewed. Active case-searching was conducted with the help during the outbreak period (OR = infinity; Fisher’s exact of community leaders. 95% CI = 4.3–infinity). The investigation identified 98 probable cases, with two deaths (case-fatality rate = 2%). The median patient age was Traceback and Laboratory Investigations 10 years (range = 11 months–75 years). Reported signs or The Uganda Public Health Fellowship Program investiga- symptoms included vomiting (95%), diarrhea (87%), malaise tors conducted interviews with area retailers and wholesalers (60%), dizziness (48%), tachypnea (27%), syncope (16%), and regarding their sources of cassava, and the implicated product tachycardia (10%); 6% of patients reported fever. These signs was further traced back to its source. Two primary sources and symptoms suggested cyanide poisoning (3). Although the 308 MMWR / April 5, 2019 / Vol. 68 / No. 13 US Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report FIGURE 1. Approximately 600 million tropical residents, half of whom cost less than other batches for sale at the time, investigators live in Africa, rely on cassava as their main food source speculated that it might have been from “wild” cultivars. This suspicion was corroborated by funeral attendees, who described the cassava flour dish served at the funeral as pure white, which is typical of flour from wild cultivars, instead of the creamy- colored flour from sweet cultivars. Cassava flour samples were obtained for visual inspection and spectrophotometric cyanide testing by the Government Analytical Laboratory in Uganda. The five samples obtained from the implicated batch were pure white in color and con- tained cyanogenic glycoside that was equivalent to an average of 88 ppm of cyanide (range = 85–90), more than eight times the recommended safe level of 10 ppm (2). Informed by findings of this investigation, police in Kasese District confiscated all sacks of cassava flour from retailers where affected families had purchased the product. Health education was conducted in the communities about cyanide poisoning from cassava and the need to adequately process Photo/Uganda Public Health Fellowship Program cassava to reduce the cyanide content. TABLE 1. Attack rates of cyanide poisoning, by age group, sex, and Discussion subcounty during an outbreak caused by eating a cassava flour dish that contained high cyanogenic content — Kasese District, Uganda, The epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory investigations September 2017 indicated that this outbreak of cyanide poisoning resulted from Attack rate eating cassava with a high cyanogenic content. Patients’ signs No. of (per 10,000 Characteristic cases Population* population) and symptoms included dizziness, vomiting, tachypnea, syn- Total 98 84,032 11.7 cope, and tachycardia and were consistent with acute cyanide Age group (yrs) poisoning (3,5); the absence of fever made infectious etiology 0–5 23 15,464 14.9 unlikely. Symptoms occurred a few hours after meals during 5–18 49 32,134 15.2 19–44 15 27,321 5.5 which a cassava flour dish was served. This finding was con- ≥45 11 9112 12.1 sistent with previous reports, with symptoms typically starting Sex 4–6 hours after ingesting a meal, as the cyanide is released upon Male 43 41,092 10.5 digestion of the cyanogenic glycosides (6). The case-control Female 55 42,940 12.8 Subcounty study strongly linked the outbreak to cassava flour supplied Bwera 25 17,883 13.7 by wholesaler A, and the traceback investigation suggested Ihandiro 19 13,881 14.0 that the implicated cassava might have originated in Tanzania. Mpondwe Lubiriha Trading Centre 54 52,268 10.3 The laboratory investigation found high levels of cyanogenic * Projected 2017 population based on the 2014 census. Differences were statistically significant by Chi-square test (p = 0.003). glycosides in the implicated cassava flour. Differences were not statistically significant by Chi-square test (p>0.05). Cassava crops are resistant to drought, pests, and diseases, making cassava invaluable for food security, especially in areas were identified. Farmers grew their own cassava, known as plagued by food shortages (7). Approximately 600 million “sweet” cultivars. Residents also bought cassava from retailers, tropical residents, half of whom live in Africa, rely on cas- especially for serving at communal gatherings when a large sava as their main food source (8). Acute cyanide poisoning, quantity was needed. The retailers bought their cassava flour often with fatal consequences, can occur after eating a large from wholesalers, who mainly bought from cassava mills in amount of cassava, especially in communities dependent on a Kasese town, approximately 31 miles (50 km) away. During the monotonous cassava diet (9). Recurrent exposure to nonlethal outbreak period, wholesaler A was the main supplier to retailers concentrations through a monotonous cassava-based diet leads in the three subcounties. Wholesaler A reportedly bought the to long-term effects, including paralytic diseases such as tropical implicated batch from a town bordering Uganda and Tanzania, ataxic neuropathy and konzo, a neurologic disease character- approximately 174 miles (280 km) from Kasese; the implicated ized by sudden onset of irreversible, nonprogressive spastic batch was further traced back to Tanzania. Because this batch US Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention MMWR / April 5, 2019 / Vol. 68 / No. 13 309 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report FIGURE 2. Number of cases of cyanide poisoning from eating a cassava flour dish, by date and 4-hour interval of symptom onset, among funeral attendees and nonattendees — Kasese District, Uganda, September 5–8, 2017 Nonattendees Funeral attendees Dinner at funeral Dinner Dinner 12–3 am 8–11 am 4–7 pm 12–3 am 8–11 am 4–7 pm 12–3 am 8–11 am 4–7 pm 12–3 am 8–11 am 4–7 pm September 5 September 6 September 7 September 8 Date/4-hour interval of symptom onset TABLE 2. Exposure factors among case-patients and controls during Summary a cyanide poisoning outbreak caused by eating a cassava flour dish that contained high cyanogenic content — Kasese District, Uganda, What is already known about this topic? September 2017 Cassava, an edible tuberous root often made into flour, contains Case-patients Controls cyanogenic glycosides, which can result in fatal cyanide (N = 88) (N = 176) poisoning if not properly detoxified by soaking, drying, and Exposure factors No. (%) No. (%) OR (95% CI) scraping before being consumed. Acute cassava-associated Attendance at September 5 funeral cyanide poisoning outbreaks are rarely described. Yes 21 (23.9) 3 (1.7) 40 (5.4–298*) No 67 (76.1) 173 (98.3) Referent What is added by this report? Source of cassava during outbreak period In September 2017, an outbreak of suspected cyanide poisoning, Ever purchased cassava 88 (100.0) 141 (80.1) Infinity involving 98 cases with two deaths, occurred in western Uganda. from retailers supplied by (5.4–infinity*) Epidemiologic and laboratory investigation identified consump- wholesaler A tion of a cassava flour dish made from wild cultivars of cassava Never purchased cassava 0 (0) 35 (19.9) Referent from retailers supplied by with high cyanogenic content as the cause of the outbreak. wholesaler A What are the implications for public health practice? †,§ Among funeral nonattendees Ever purchased cassava 67 (100.0) 137 (79.2) Infinity Education of farmers and consumers about the importance of from retailers supplied by (4.3–infinity ) strict adherence to established methods of degrading cyanogenic wholesaler A glycosides in cassava is essential to prevent cyanide poisoning. Never purchased cassava 0 (0) 36 (20.8) Referent from retailers supplied by wholesaler A Although wild cassava cultivars have greater yield, higher Abbreviations: CI = confidence interval; OR = odds ratio. resistance to pests, and longer storability in the soil than do * Mantel-Haenszel OR and CI. 67 case-patients and 173 controls. sweet cultivars, they are bitter, and hence, have a lower market Association between eating cassava from wholesaler A and illness could not value. In addition, the cyanogenic content of wild cultivars is as be assessed among attendees at funeral because all funeral attendees ate cassava from wholesaler A. high as 2,000 ppm of dry weight (1), 200 times the safe level Fisher’s exact OR and CI. (<10 ppm) recommended by the World Health Organization (2). Therefore, wild cultivars are not recommended for human paralysis (2). In sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Uganda, consumption. However, some farmers still plant wild cultivars Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, thou- because of their resilience and high yield (1). sands of persons might have experienced cyanide poisoning Although the cyanogenic content of sweet cassava is substan- from cassava (7,8), but the full extent of the problem remains tially less than that of wild cultivars (up to 100 ppm) (1), the unknown because reliable data are lacking. sweet cassava cultivars still require detoxification before they 310 MMWR / April 5, 2019 / Vol. 68 / No. 13 US Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention No. of cases Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report are consumed; this involves peeling the tubers, soaking them All authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE form for disclosure of potential conflicts of interest. No potential conflicts of in water for 4–6 days, and sun-drying or roasting them. The interest were disclosed. outer layer is then scraped off and the remainder ground into flour. This process promotes enzymatic degradation of cya- References nogenic glycosides. If the soaking or drying time is too short, 1. Tumwesigye SK. Three decades of toxic cyanide management in Uganda. enzymatic degradation will be inadequate, and cyanogenic Doing and communicating more with minimal strategies. Has it been glycosides remain high (5). During droughts, cassava traders possible? Cassava Cyanide Diseases and Neurolathyrism Network 2014;24:4–9. http://ipbo.vib-ugent.be/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/ sometimes fail to follow recommended procedures, which can CCDN-News-24-December-2014.pdf result in a product with high levels of cyanogenic glycosides 2. Cliff J, Muquingue H, Nhassico D, Nzwalo H, Bradbury JH. Konzo and that can lead to cyanide poisoning (1). continuing cyanide intoxication from cassava in Mozambique. Food Chem Toxicol 2011;49:631–5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2010.06.056 A rapid, semiquantitative, colorimetric test that is free to work- 3. CDC. Emergency preparedness and response: facts about cyanide. ers in developing countries can be used by relatively untrained Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; persons to quickly determine the cyanogenic potential of cassava 2018. https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/cyanide/basics/facts.asp 4. Jones KR. Hydroxocobalamin (Cyanokit): a new antidote for cyanide flour (10). Wholesalers and government food inspectors can toxicity. Advanced Emergency Nursing Journal 2008;30:112–21. use this method to routinely measure cyanogenic content of 5. Ariffin WA, Choo KE, Karnaneedi S. Cassava (ubi kayu) poisoning in commercial cassava flour. Farmers and consumers in areas that children. Med J Malaysia 1992;47:231–4. depend upon cassava should be warned about cyanide poisoning 6. Nzwalo H, Cliff J. 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Morbidity and Mortality Weekly ReportPubmed Central

Published: Apr 5, 2019

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