October 7, 2008

Zambia Health Minister Denies Reports of “Mystery” Illness Killing Four in SAfrica

Text of report by website of non-profit South African Press Association (SAPA) news agency

Johannesburg 6 Oct 2008: No health facilities in Zambia have received reports of people with the mystery flu-like illness that has claimed four lives in South Africa, Zambia's health minister said on Monday.

"Note that none of our health facilities here in Zambia has reported such an illness. Laboratory investigations so far done do not point to any particular disease," Brian Chituwo said in statement.

Chituwo said the Ministry of Health, World Health Organization and the Centre for Disease Control were still carrying out investigations.

He said all the people who had been in contact with the deceased were being traced.

"All the contacts are being traced, and so far of all those identified, none of them are in danger,' Chituwo said.

Four people have died in South Africa of a highly infectious disease that has yet to be identified, the health department has said.

The first casualty was a woman from Zambia who was critically ill when she arrived in South Africa on September 12. She was treated for tick-bite fever and other potential infections at Morningside Medi-Clinic, but died two days later.

Blood tests were not conclusive for any disease.

The second victim was a Zambian male paramedic who had accompanied the woman. He was admitted on September 27 with flu- like symptoms and treated for a range of infections.

A nurse from the clinic also died following contact with the Zambian woman.

The fourth was a cleaner who had worked in the ward.

Chituwo said unconfirmed reports indicated that an ambulance driver who had driven the first patient from Lanseria Airport to the hospital was in a critical condition.

The minister however said that international and local air travel would continue.

He assured Zambians that the situation was under control and being given the "special attention it deserved".

[SABCnews.com reported that the Gauteng Health Department has denied that negligence may have led to the death of health workers linked to the mysterious disease. Chief of communicable diseases in the Health Department, Frey Denson, said the mystery disease had not been classified as highly infectious disease at the time of contact between patient and health workers. The department has not yet identified the disease.]

Originally published by SAPA news agency website, Johannesburg, in English 1539 6 Oct 08.

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