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Nigeria on alert over mysterious illness that has killed dozens

By Otiato Opali in Nairobi, Kenya | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-02-12 19:42
A train stops at the Idu Railway Station in Abuja, Nigeria on July 26, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Nigerian senate on Tuesday raised the alarm over what is being referred to as a strange epidemic in the state of Benue. An illness has killed 15 people and affected hundreds more, according Nigerian senator Abba Moro, who represents a district in Benue State.

In a Senate resolution, Moro urged the country’s health ministry to dispatch experts to the center of the outbreak to find out more about the illness, which causes vomiting, fever, headaches, swelling and diarrhea. The senator added that those who lost their lives all died 48 hours after contracting the undiagnosed illness.

Responding to the claims through Twitter, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control said the center is working with local officials to investigate the possible outbreak. The center has also said that the first cases were discovered in January.

"A national rapid response team is supporting the Benue State Ministry of Health to investigate an unclear cause of deaths in two local government areas in the state. Infectious causes, including known viral hemorrhagic fevers, have been ruled out. Water samples are being tested for possible chemical poisoning," the Nigeria Center for Disease Control said on its official Twitter page.

Official reports from the Nigerian government indicate that the illness has not been identified by health authorities, so a possible cure has not yet been found.

According to local media, Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria's health minister, said in a briefing on Friday the illness did not appear to be Ebola or Lassa fever, which are potentially fatal virus threats likely to occur in West Africa. He also added that it did not appear to be the 2019 novel coronavirus, which that originated in Wuhan, China.

Local reports also indicate that Benue state officials have implied that the illness was likely to be chemical poisoning, because those affected by it share the same water source. It is suspected that chemicals used in fishing may be responsible for the sickness.

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