WHO investigating mysterious illness in Angola

Aug 16, 2011 | Sumiko Mekaru | Outbreak News

The World Health Organization has sent a team of outbreak investigators to Angola where schoolchildren have been suffering from a non-fatal illness. Reported symptoms may include throat irritation, shortness of breath, eye irritation, dizziness, and fainting. Given the symptoms observed, the cause may be exposure to a toxic or irritating chemical as opposed to an infectious disease.

Angolan media has been reporting on these cases since April (see this Portuguese language article for a recent incident). The Epoch Times reports that 800 people have fainted due to the condition. The mysterious illness gained greater international prominence after a journalist reporting on it was jailed for doing so. Earlier this month, a commission set up by the Angolan government determined in that the cases were actually due to “mass hysteria.” The WHO statement notes that “This is complex work and WHO is consulting with experts and specialized institutions from other countries to explore ideas on appropriate lines of investigation.”

These incidents are separate from the earlier outbreak of undiagnosed vomiting and diarrhea in Luanda-Norte state.  Cholera has since been identified in that outbreak.

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