Posts Tagged ‘Epidemic’

Unknown Disease in South Africa

Disease is a major concern in South Africa. In addition to having one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the world, the majority of South Africans do not have access to quality public healthcare.

This is what makes the story of an unknown disease breaking out in South Africa in 2008 all that more disturbing. On the 12th of September, 2008, an office employee working for a safari company in Zambia was diagnosed with an as yet unknown disease. The woman was evacuated and died in a Johannesburg hospital two days later. On the 27th of September the paramedic who had assisted in her evacuation to South Africa was also admitted to hospital. He died on the 2nd of October. A nurse who had taken care of the first patient also fell ill and succumbed to the disease on the 5th of October.

The disease was analyzed in a laboratory but no conclusive results were reached. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) based in South Africa have done several tests of which none have tested positive for viral haemorrhagic fevers or other common infectious disease pathogens. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, United States assisted in the testing of the disease. Symptoms of the disease include fever, headaches, diarrhea, rash and liver failure which lead to death.

After initial tests with inconclusive results the disease was identified as arenavirus infection by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Arenaviruses are associated with rodents which are the carriers of the virus. Contact with faeces, urine, blood or saliva of infected rodents or dust containing infective particles results in the transmission of the virus to humans.

An entire month passed from the point of infection to the point of identification of the virus. This makes you wonder what would happen if a larger outbreak had to take place…

How many more people would have lost their lives if the virus had been more widespread?