Health officials identify Kenyan disease as malaria
December 26, 1997
Web posted at: 3:58 a.m. EST (0858 GMT)
NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- Kenya medical officials have identified a disease that has killed at least 143 people in three months as malaria, but are unsure of the strain.
The U.N. World Health Organization, top Kenya medical
officials and the aid agencies Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders have been trying to identify the disease.
Malaria is endemic to Kenya, but recent heavy rains have
significantly increased the incidence of many water-borne
At least 143 people have died in North Eastern Province
since torrential rains linked to the El Nino weather phenomenon began in October, senior regional officials said.
"We don't know what the cause is and the most logical way
of going about it is getting someone there and doing an
epidemiological investigation," said Dr. Dominic Mutie of WHO's disease control unit.
"They complain of severe headache, diarrhea and vomiting
and then they die. We think it is severe malaria. We have a lot of mosquitoes and dirty water and that is what people are
drinking," North Eastern deputy provincial commissioner John
Chege told Reuters.
Health officials are puzzled by the unusual symptoms.
Newspapers have linked the disease to Ebola or 11 other
But WHO argued that only investigation could identify the
disease and said reporting of casualty figures was highly
"A lot of the reports are being given by local chiefs and
they think that anyone who dies is branded with this
disease...Data has not been properly collected," said Mutie.
WHO said last week that 555 people had been killed by cholera in Kenya since the end of June.
Nairobi Bureau Chief Catherine Bond and Reuters contributed to this report.