WELLINGTON, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand and Australian travelers have been warned to avoid free cocktails in bars and hotels in southeast Asia after a young backpacker was almost blinded with methanol poisoning.
The 19-year-old woman arrived in New Zealand 35 hours after drinking eight to 10 complimentary cocktails containing a mixture of arrack a coconut flower, rice and sugarcane-based spirit and fruit juice at a bar in Indonesia, according to the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM).
The woman arrived in New Zealand suffering shortness of breath and developed sudden visual failure and rapid breathing, said a statement from ACEM.
She sought help and survived, but she had been left with permanent visual impairment, it said.
In the case report published in the latest issue of the ACEM's Emergency Medicine Australasia, emergency physicians Dr Paul Gee and Dr Elizabeth Martin, from Christchurch Hospital, expressed concern about the number of methanol poisoning cases among tourists to Indonesia in recent years.
"An almost identical case was reported in an Australian tourist to Indonesia in 1992. An incident where 25 died from methanol poisoning in Indonesia occurred in 2009, and in recent months, an Australian nurse was poisoned by tainted arrack and another tourist died in similar circumstances," they said.
"In the case reported now, it is likely that the woman was given a drink contaminated with methanol from an illegal distillation of ethanol."
Gee and Martin said in the statement that the case highlighted the risk of consuming alcohol of unverified origin in southeast Asia.
Early symptoms could be non-specific, and victims of methanol toxicity often waited before seeking medical help.
Methanol was used as a fuel, a solvent, windscreen de-icer and antifreeze, and, if consumed, it could cause blindness, coma and death, said the statement.
Methanol toxicity was infrequent in the developed world, but it was still commonly seen in developing countries as a result of home-brewed alcohol.