________________________________________________________________________ Kenya scientists suspect anthrax as epidemic cause Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net Copyright ) 1997 Reuters NAIROBI (December 27, 1997 11:42 a.m. EST http://www.nando.net) - Scientists are investigating whether the anthrax bacteria is responsible for an epidemic that has killed at least 143 people in three months in Kenya's North Eastern province. "We are trying to put the priority on ruling out anthrax. Anthrax is what we suspect is the cause," on Saturday said Peter Tukei, a medical doctor and senior virologist at the Kenya Medical Research Institute. The aid agency Amref also said it was testing blood and stool samples in an attempt to to rule out anthrax as a leading suspect for the disease. At least 143 people have died in North Eastern province since October, at the start of severe flooding linked to the El Nino climatic phenomenon. Newspapers reported on Saturday a further 28 people had been killed by the disease in North Eastern province's Garissa district in the last 24 hours. Regional government officials earlier blamed a strain of malaria for the epidemic. Victims have complained of a variety of symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea and severe headaches. The deadly anthrax bacteria, which usually affects slaughterhouse workers, spreads from the carcasses of animals to humans via contact. Severe floods have increased the animal death toll, leading to possible contamination of humans forced to drink water infected by animal carcasses, Tukei told Reuters. He stressed it was not yet possible to give a definitive explanation for the disease. The Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control, the U.N. World Health Organisation and aid agencies are working with government health officials in an attempt to identify the disease.
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