Officials in Tanzania declared a health emergency today as a strange disease is feared to have claimed the lives of seven persons and 21 others quarantined at major health centers in the country’s Chemba and Kondoa districts, according to Nigeria’s Premium Times.
Ummy Mwalimu, minister for Health, Social Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, explained that government learned about the mysterious outbreak on June 13. Describing the symptoms, Mwalimu stated, “The patients show symptoms of vomiting and running stomachs. Their eyes and other body parts also turn yellow.” Other symptoms include painful and fluid-filled stomachs.
The unidentified illness is thought to have originated with a family of 9 in Dodoma, a region in central Tanzania, before spreading to as many as ten villages so far. In a recent press conference, Mwalimu explained her ministry’s effort to control the mysterious outbreak:
“We have sent samples of the patients including blood, stool, vomit, fluids, and liver to the national laboratory, the Chief Government Chemist and Kilimanjaro Christian Research Institute (KCRI) for laboratory testing. Initial tests at the national laboratory have as well proved that the strange disease is not Yellow Fever. So far, much as the patients are isolated, we are highly confident that the disease is not contagious. Laboratory technicians are still working to identify other diseases such as Rift Valley Fever (RVF).”
The Tanzanian government has ruled out possibilities of an anthrax outbreak. In addition to Rift Valley Fever, public health experts also suspect that the symptoms could be linked to a toxic, food-borne compounds called aflatoxins. These substances “are produced by certain moulds found in food, which can cause liver damage and cancer.” Improper food and feed storage is a primary culprit in the growth of aflatoxins, which pose a danger to human, animal, and plant life.
In addition to clinical testing, the government of Tanzania is also engaging the medical expertise of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as they strive to find an answer to the strange disease.