by Hruy Tsegaye
in Fortune, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
A mysterious disease, which has infected approximately 3,000 people in Afar Regional State in the past three months, has medical professionals puzzled. Blood samples were sent to Senegal after an investigation at the Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institution (EHNRI) failed to identify cultures grown here, according to sources in Afar.
People who are infected show symptoms including high fever, shivering, hallucinations, vomiting, and back pain, according to Hussein Ali, an official in the Regional Health Bureau.
“At first we thought it was malaria because of the symptoms, but blood tests done for it came back negative,” he told Fortune.
People living in three Weredas in the region - Asa’iyta, Dubti and Afambo - have been infected, residents and health professionals Fortune talked to over the phone confirmed. The population of the three Weredas is 140,998 out of 1.1 million in the whole region, according to the 2007 census done by the Central Statistics Agency (CSA).
So far patients with the symptoms are being treated with Doxycycline, an antibiotic, and Diclophenac, an anti inflammatory, according to a nurse possessing his Bachelors of Science (BSc), who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity nature of the issue.
“Although there is suspicion that the cause might be viral, there has not been a definitive diagnosis,” he told Fortune. “However, there has not been a single death reported so far.”
After blood samples tested negative for malaria, health professionals, the Regional Health Bureau and WHO had suspected that it might be Dengue Fever, a tropical disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes, according to Hussien.
“However, that notion has been abandoned as the symptoms do not include body rash, which is characteristics of Dengue Fever,” he told Fortune.
Health professionals at the Ministry of Health (MoH), WHO, and EHNRI declined comment on the issue.
However, WHO and the Regional Disease Prevention and Control Office are working collaboratively to identify and control the new unidentified disease, according to Hussein.
by Hruy Tsegaye