________________________________________________________________________ Kenya trying to identify lethal mystery disease Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net Copyright ) 1997 Reuters NAIROBI (December 24, 1997 08:24 a.m. EST http://www.nando.net) - Kenya medical authorities working with the United Nations and aid agencies are investigating a disease that has killed at least 143 people in three months, officials said Wednesday. The U.N. World Health Organization (WHO), top Kenyan medical officials and the aid agencies Oxfam and Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF-Doctors without Frontiers) were trying to identify the disease, aid and government officials said. 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 the 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. The Daily Nation on Wednesday said 28 more people had died of the "mystery disease," apparently since Monday. Newspapers have linked the disease to Ebola or 11 other possible diseases. But WHO argued that only investigation could identify the disease and said reporting of casualty figures was highly speculative. "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. Malaria is endemic to Kenya, but recent heavy rains have significantly increased the incidence of many water-borne diseases. WHO said last week that 555 people had been killed by cholera in Kenya since the end of June.
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