Medics help poisoning victims in Nicaragua

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Approximately 20 U.S. military members left here Sept. 10 for Leon, Nicaragua, to provide medical assistance to people suffering from alcohol poisoning.

Joint Task Force Bravo servicemembers responded to a request for help from the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua after more than 30 people died from a toxic batch of moonshine mixed with methanol, a poisonous alcohol that can cause blindness, organ damage and death from respiratory failure.

About a hundred new patients were admitted to the already overwhelmed public hospital in Leon, about 55 miles northwest of the capital, Managua, raising fears of more deaths.

In addition to an emergency medical team, consisting of a physician, a preventive medicine specialist and a physician's assistant, the task force sent two UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopters with emergency flight medics, one CH-47 Chinook helicopter, 500 bottles of water and more than 500 Meals, Ready to Eat. 

U.S. forces will donate two ventilators valued at $15,000 each to the hospital. The ventilators are considered critical for saving patients.

"The people of Nicaragua have asked for our assistance. Our purpose is to help them stop the dying," said U.S. Army Col. Christopher Hughes, Joint Task Force Bravo commander. "We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have perished and will do our very best to help those who are still suffering from the poisoning."