- A breakthrough may have been found according to preliminary tests indicating that a mystery disease in Zambia and South Africa, that has killed at least three people in the past month, is caused by a virus from the family that includes Lassa fever, World Health Organisation (WHO) announced yesterday.
Reports have also confirmed that a fourth case of the illness has been found.
According to a news update released by WHO, analysis is continuing at laboratories in South Africa and United States to learn more about the virus, believed to be from Arenaviridae family.
Investigations on mystery disease began after an office employee at a safari tour company in Zambia died on 14 September in a hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, two days after undergoing a medical evacuation from Zambia.
A paramedic who cared for that patient was also later admitted to hospital in Johannesburg and died on 2 October, and a nurse who was also involved in care of first patient also died on 5 October.
The three patients, according to WHO report, experienced fever, headaches, diarrhoea and myalgia that developed into rash and hepatic dysfunction, followed by rapid deterioration and death.
Report said that a fourth case has now been confirmed, with a nurse who had close contact with one of the earlier cases becoming ill and being admitted to hospital in South Africa.
WHO is working with its partners in Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network to help health ministries in South Africa and Zambia investigate the outbreak, conduct laboratory diagnosis and become involved in case monitoring and follow-up with anyone who may have been in contact with sufferers of the disease.
Last weeked UN agency said there was no indication yet of any need to restrict travel to or from Zambia or South Africa and no special measures required for passengers arriving from these countries.
At least 121 known contacts of the fatal cases are being traced in South Africa and 23 in Zambia.
The Arenaviridae family is said to contain a wide range of viruses, including that which causes Lassa fever, an acute viral haemorrhagic illness that occurs widely across West Africa. Humans become infected from contact with urine or faeces of rodents, report explained.
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