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57 people die from a strange illness in Enugu community

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Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi

No fewer than 57 persons have been confirmed dead in Ette and Umuopu communities in Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State following outbreak of unknown disease. Igbo-Eze North shares a boundary with Kogi State.

The Disease Surveillance and Notification Officer in the council, Mr. Vincent Oshomi, said efforts were being made to ascertain the cause of the deaths.

“We have alerted the Enugu State Ministry of Health and samples of affected persons have been collected for proper diagnosis and treatment,” he said.

The disease and deaths were first recorded at Ette at the beginning of September, but spread to Umuopu, an adjoining community, yesterday, killing four.

For now, 37 persons have died at Ette community, while 20 died at Umuopu community.

Oshomi said victims presented symptoms such as convulsion, diarrhea and some were vomiting blood

“Currently we are looking out for cholera, meningitis, Lassa fever and yellow fever as possible causes. But we have to wait for the outcome of test results to be sure of what we are dealing with,” he said.

Chairman of the LGA, Ejike Itodo, who confirmed the deaths in Nsukka, yesterday, said intervention was delayed because the affected communities failed to report to the government.

He said samples had been taken to the Ministry of Health with a view to unmasking the nature of the disease.

“Yes, there is an unusual number of deaths in Ette and Umuopu communities of Igbo-Eze LGA within a space of two months. We have alerted the council’s Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers in the area for proper action. “Initially, the communities were treating the disease with kid-glove thinking the strange diseases was caused by local deity. It was when the situation got out of hand with reports of many deaths that the communities informed the council,” he said.

The Ministry of Health said it had collected samples from patients and sent to the National Reference Laboratory for investigation.

A statement by the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Emmanuel Ikechukwu Obi, said the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had been informed “and is collaborating with the Enugu State Ministry of Health at the LGA to investigate and control the reports.”

He said the Rapid Response Team of the Ministry visited Igbo-Eze North LGA and met with the LGA Rapid Response Team, disclosing that “on-the-spot-check and outbreak investigations have revealed a number of deaths from an illness with symptoms suggestive of a disease of public health importance.”

He assured that the ministry was on top of the situation and would continue to keep the public abreast with information on the source of the disease and deaths.

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