Costa Rica’s Health Ministry has revealed the death toll has increased to 25, with 59 others affected by tainted alcohol in the country. According to a press release on the agency’s website, 19 men and six women between the ages of 32 and 72 have died since June.
The health ministry said it has closed down 10 establishments and seized over 55,000 containers of tainted alcohol, said to be laced with methanol, a colorless, poisonous alcohol found in antifreeze. Adding methanol to distilled beverages allows sellers to increase the volume of liquid and its potential potency, according to SafeProof, a group against counterfeit alcohol.
The confiscated brands include Guaro Montano, Guaro Gran Apache, Star Welsh, Aguardiente Barón Rojo, Aguardiente Timbuka, and Aguardiente Molotov.
Seven of the deaths occurred in San Jose; four in Cartago, a smaller city about 16 miles east; and one in Heredia, about six miles north. In the coastal areas, deaths occurred in the eastern region of Limón and two in the western region of Guanacaste.
Initial methanol poisoning has some of the same symptoms of drunkenness: dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and confusion. Severe methanol poisoning can lead to seizures and unconsciousness; two to eight ounces can lead to lead to death. The CDC noted that methanol’s effects could take up to 72 hours to appear.
In Costa Rica, illicit alcohol makes up 19% of total sales. Mexico makes up 34% and the Dominican Republic, where several U.S. tourists have been sickened or died after drinking from minibars, makes up 29%.
The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Tourism announced it would be amping up safety protocols, including new rules and great transparency about hotels’ handling of food and alcohol and their food and beverage suppliers.