Unidentified disease Killing many in Tanzania
Seven people have died as of Saturday last week while 21 others are quarantined at the Dodoma Regional Referral Hospital and Kondoa District Hospital after they contracted a mysterious disease in Chemba and Kondoa districts.
The Minister for Health, Social Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, said samples of the victims are now being clinically tested to identify the strange disease, with laboratory results expected between today (Monday) and tomorrow Tuesday.
“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,” Ms Mwalimu told a news conference here on Sunday.
Ms Mwalimu said the admitted patients are responding well to treatment save for two children who are in critical condition. Contrary to reports making circles in the social media, the minister ruled out the possibility of anthrax since patients have not shown symptoms of the deadly disease.
“Initial tests at the national laboratory have as well proved that the strange disease is not Yellow Fever. Laboratory technicians are still working to identify other diseases such as Rift Valley Fever (RVF),” the minister explained.
She added that her ministry was expecting further results from the Chief Government Chemist on Tuesday (tomorrow). “So far, much as the patients are isolated, we are highly confident that the diease is not contagious,” she assured Tanzanians.
According to her, the disease could be linked to Aflatoxins; a class of toxic compounds that are produced by certain moulds found in food, which can cause liver damage and cancer.
Poor preservation of food crops is the major cause of Aflatoxins. Ms Mwalimu explained further that samples of cereals, including maize, sorghum and millet, have been sent to the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) and the Chief Government Chemist for testing — with results of the laboratory investigations expected today.
She said the government is working around the clock to contain the disease by engaging various stakeholders including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United States Centre for Disease Control (CDC).
The mysterious disease was detected for the first time on June 13 this year in Chemba District where it has reportedly affected a family of nine people in Mwaikisabe Village before it spread out to surrounding areas, including Kondoa District.
Major symptoms of the strange disease include vomiting, diarrhoea and eyes and other parts of the body turning yellow. Other signs include stomach ache, leading to swelling of the abdomen after being full with water.
“The patients neither experience high temperatures nor skin rashes and it affects all people, including adults and children,” she explained. According to Ms Mwalimu, it is believed that the first people to contract the disease ate cow meat that had been slaughtered with one of its limbs fractured.