WHO Probes Ebola-Like Illness in Sudan

May 21, 2004

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — World Health Organization experts are investigating an Ebola-like hemorrhagic fever in southern Sudan that has killed 15 people, a WHO official said Thursday.

The mystery illness was first reported May 10 near Yambio, a southern Sudanese town close to the border with northern Uganda, said Dr. Oladipo Walker, WHO's resident representative in Uganda.

"We are aware of the cases and we are investigating," he said.

Two WHO experts in hemorrhagic fever and outbreak response arrived in Yambio on Wednesday to investigate the illness, said Cathy Roth, a member of WHO's global alert and response team.

A preliminary investigation by WHO's Sudan country office "suggested there was some sort of unusual illness and requested support," Roth said by telephone from Geneva.

Roth was unable to give details about the number of reported cases of the illness.

"The situation is calm. There have been no new reports of cases for the last few days," she said.

Southern Sudan has been wracked by civil war since 1983; thousands of people are periodically displaced by fighting, and public health facilities are rare.

Last May, health experts identified a disease that killed 22 people in southern Sudan as yellow fever.

In 2000, an Ebola outbreak killed 173 in Gulu district in northern Uganda.

The Ebola virus is spread by contact with body fluids, including sweat and saliva. Outbreaks of the disease are rare, and no one knows where the virus lives when it is not infecting humans.

Ugandan health officials said they circulated warnings in areas that border Sudan.

"We are on high alert and all health workers have been informed to put on gloves and use antiseptics," said Dr. Paul Onek, Gulu district health officer. "We are reactivating the surveillance system."

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2004-05-20-sudan_x.htm




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