- While the death toll of the mysterious disease ravaging northern Angola is rising, authorities insist that there is no talk of an Ebola outbreak. Some 101 cases have been reported, including 93 deaths. Blood samples sent to laboratories abroad have yet to provide conclusions.
Angola's Deputy Health Minister Natália do Espírito Santo at a press conference in Luanda yesterday evening confirmed that the death toll of the mysterious disease in the Uige province continues to climb. The Uige provincial hospital had confirmed 101 cases of the deadly infection, including 93 deaths, Ms Espírito Santo said. Two infected patients had fled the hospital.
She further "definitively dismissed" that the Uige province was being hit by an Ebola outbreak. There were no signs of Ebola - a virus causing a very deadly and contagious haemorrhagic fever - the Deputy Minister told the press. Blood samples sent to the laboratories of the Pasteur Institute of Dakar, Senegal, had shown that Ebola could be ruled out, she said.
Other sources in the Angolan Ministry of Health however have pointed out that the tests from the Senegalese institute had not been conclusive. The Angolan Ministry also had sent blood samples to the laboratory of the CDC Institute in Atlanta, USA, which specialises on Ebola testing. The Ministry is still waiting for the conclusions from the tests in Atlanta.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) last week said it suspected the outbreak of an "acute haemorrhagic fever syndrome" in Angola's Uige province, a group of diseases to which Ebola belongs. In cooperation with the Angolan Ministry of Health and the UN children's agency UNICEF, rigid security efforts were announced, fuelling the suspicion of an Ebola outbreak.
No official source, neither from the Angolan government nor from any UN agency, has so far mentioned the possibility of an Ebola outbreak, as this is expected to cause panic among Angolans and potential visitors to the country. The Deputy Health Minister yesterday however confirmed that blood samples had been sent to CDC Institute to be tested on Ebola.
Ms Espirito Santo further appealed to the Uige population to take the necessary hygienic, drinking and feeding measures. She also advised people not to travel from and to Uige province until the situation there was "brought under control." The provincial government of Uige last week also suspended programmes to resettle refugees in the province and has placed some restrictions on the movement in and out of Uige.
Ebola frequently breaks out in the nearby region. Uige province is located at the border with Congo Kinshasa (DRC) and parts of the province have a rainforest climate. Most Ebola outbreaks occur somewhat north of Angola, in Congo Brazzaville and Gabon, and are defined to rainforest regions where local residents are consuming bushmeat, in particular apes, which are considered to spread the disease.
The first infections of the mysterious disease in northern Angola are reported to have occurred already in October last year, with deaths following closely thereafter. The central government was however not advised before January this year and it sought help from WHO in February, as the numbers of deaths started increasing rapidly. Only since last week, the official death toll has increased from 39 to 93 persons.
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