Fears Of Mutant Virus Mount As Fever Kills Hundreds
By Louise Tunbridge in Nairobi
From Electronic Telegraph
EXPERTS have confirmed the spread of a deadly haemorrhagic fever, which
has already killed hundreds of people in north-eastern Kenya, to areas
within 100 miles of the capital, Nairobi.
Five deaths from the disease, diagnosed as Rift Valley Fever, have been
reported in Magadi in the Kajiado district, south of Nairobi and near the
border with Tanzania. The disease, transmitted from animals to humans by
mosquitos or contact with infected livestock, causes fever, vomiting and
bleeding from gums and orifices.
The nature and spread of the disease is uncertain and the health ministry
is advising people to boil milk and cook meat thoroughly. Some schools
have banned meat. The Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta, where specimens
were tested, urged tourists to protect themselves from mosquitos.
Epidemiologists from the World Health Organisation arrived last week to
investigate and draw up guidelines on preventative measures with the Kenyan
health ministry. One said the team was puzzled by the virulence of the
disease and the high fatality rate and was considering the possibility
of a mutant strain of the virus.
Rift Valley Fever is endemic in Africa and usually classified as a non-fatal
disease. WHO officials say there is no human vaccine, but the US military
says it developed one in an anti-viral programme to counter biological
warfare. It has not been approved for civilian use.
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