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Brazzaville, Congo – The World Health Organization (WHO) has dispatched experts from its African Region Office (AFRO) based here to Zambia and South Africa to work with the country’s authorities to investigate the mysterious disease which has killed four Zambians, the organisation said.

Responding to enquiries from PANA Wednesday, the WHO AFRO said Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and sampling equipment were also being sent to the southern African nations.

It said the investigations, aimed at ascertaining more details of the disease, would involve case definition, active case finding, contacts tracing and laboratory investigations.

”At this moment, we still do not have much information on the disease: we know that the blood samples taken so far have tested negative for the most-common Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers (e.g., Ebola, Marburg, Lassa, CCHF), but we do not yet know what the causative agent is, neither do we know the source and with certainty the mode of transmission,” the organisation said.

It added: ”Strict infection control practices need to be established and maintained when dealing with suspect cases. Any disease with such a high Case Fatality Ratio with some evidence of human to human transmission and spread across international borders is of concern and warrants further investigation. We will keep all parties concerned updated as we receive further information.”

Four people, originally from Zambia, have died in South Africa from a mysterious flu-like disease which has been likened to the ebola virus which broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo a few years ago.

A report by Zambian medical experts investigating the disease has said it is not ebola, according to the Zambian media.

The Permanent Secretary in Zambia’s Ministry of Health, Simon Miti, said that the health authorities in the country had been put on high alert against any symptoms similar to those that afflicted the four dead people.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, health authorities said Wednesday they had placed special medical teams on high alert after reports of the mysterious disease outbreak.
Brazzaville – 08/10/2008