Three die from Ebola-like virus in Afghanistan

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    Three die from Ebola-like virus in Afghanistan

    Emergency medical teams are preparing to travel to south-western Afghanistan to treat what appears to be a lethal Ebola-like disease along Afghanistan's border with Iran, UN health officials said on Thursday.

    Hospitals in the Iranian town of Zabol have treated five suspected cases of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever in Afghans from the border town of Zaranj in Nimruz province over the past ten days, said World Health Organization representative, Loretta Hieber Girardet. Three of the patients have died.

    "Although we cannot confirm an outbreak at this point, we are taking appropriate control measures to contain the disease including ensuring additional medical supplies are ready in the western part of the region," she said.

    "WHO emergency communicable disease specialists are on standby in Kabul ready to travel to Nimruz tomorrow to implement further control measures if an outbreak of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is confirmed."

    Final confirmation of blood samples collected by the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders have yet to be completed by laboratories in France, however evidence strongly suggests all three victims died after having contracted CCHF, she said.

    CCHF is contracted from infected ticks carried by livestock and can spread through contact with the bodily fluids of infected patients, putting health providers and immediate family members at the greatest risk.

    Unlike Ebola, which is untreatable, CCHF can be cured, though it claims a mortality rate of at least 30%, Hieber-Girardet said. Both diseases eat away at internal organs, causing uncontrollable bleeding from bodily orifices.

    Zaranj, which was the scene of heavy factional fighting last month that closed the border, is an important cross-over point for refugees returning to Afghanistan. - Sapa-DPA
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