A mysterious disease, which has infected
approximately 3,000 people in Afar Regional State in
the past three months, has medical professionals
puzzled. Blood samples were sent to Senegal after an
investigation at the Ethiopian Health and Nutrition
Research Institution (EHNRI) failed to identify
cultures grown here, according to sources in Afar.
People who are infected show symptoms including high
fever, shivering, hallucinations, vomiting, and back
pain, according to Hussein Ali, an official in the
Regional Health Bureau.
“At first we thought it was malaria because of the
symptoms, but blood tests done for it came back
negative,” he told Fortune.
People living in three Weredas in the region -
Asa’iyta, Dubti and Afambo - have been infected,
residents and health professionals Fortune talked to
over the phone confirmed. The population of the
three Weredas is 140,998 out of 1.1 million in the
whole region, according to the 2007 census done by
the Central Statistics Agency (CSA).
So far patients with the symptoms are being treated
with Doxycycline, an antibiotic, and Diclophenac, an
anti inflammatory, according to a nurse possessing
his Bachelors of Science (BSc), who requested
anonymity due to the sensitivity nature of the
“Although there is suspicion that the cause might be
viral, there has not been a definitive diagnosis,”
he told Fortune. “However, there has not been a
single death reported so far.”
After blood samples tested negative for malaria,
health professionals, the Regional Health Bureau and
WHO had suspected that it might be Dengue Fever, a
tropical disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes,
according to Hussien.
“However, that notion has been abandoned as the
symptoms do not include body rash, which is
characteristics of Dengue Fever,” he told Fortune.
Health professionals at the Ministry of Health (MoH),
WHO, and EHNRI declined comment on the issue.
However, WHO and the Regional Disease Prevention and
Control Office are working collaboratively to
identify and control the new unidentified disease,
according to Hussein.