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Eight Die in Uganda from Mystery Illness

by Shelby Hawkins on June 7, 2018

First reported on May 23rd by the World Health Organization (WHO), 19 children have contracted an unknown illness in Uganda.

Ages range from zero to ten years old, the kids are thought to have fallen ill with Black Water Fever, a complication from malaria.

Black water fever predominantly affects children and leads to massive rupture of red blood cells. This then releases hemoglobin into the blood vessels and into urine, leading to kidney failure and death.

Those have contracted the disease experience symptoms of high fever, dark black urine, stomach pains and signs of anemia, which is the deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood.

These episodes span over two years.

The affected children are mostly boys and are one or two years of age; the youngest one is 5 months old.

As of now, there have been eight reported deaths in Uganda, and six of the dead patients tested positive for malaria.

What is Being Done to Combat The Illness?

The Ugandan ministry of health is currently testing blood and urine samples. So far there are no definitive results.

As a result of this, experts have been sent to the area to conduct surveillance and thoroughly inspect the cases.

The WHO cautions experts not to assume the illness disease is Black Water Fever and to keep an open mind.

Malaria and complications due to malaria has been an ongoing problem in the country for over a century. According to the Ministry of Health (MOH) an estimated 8 to 13 million episodes are reported per year.

In order to fight these numbers, authorities in the Dokolo and Apac districts are using indoor residual spraying (IRS) as primary action against malaria.

Mr Suwed Musafiri, the Dokolo District information officer, says that the IRS intervention was conceived in 2012 following a council resolution.

“That time, Dokolo was almost having the highest prevalence of malaria in the whole country,” he says, “We were not doing well; we had lots of issues; children dropping out of school, children dying and mothers having miscarriages.”

Malaria is the leading cause of miscarriage in Uganda.

A 2011 report from Medical News Daily states that a single malaria episode early in pregnancy nearly triples the risk of miscarriage.

Another preventative measure being taken by authorities is intermittent preventive treatment.

In 2010 the WHO recommended IPT for infants (IPTi), as well as regular immunizations. However, the intervention is not recommended for areas with high prevalence; it is believed that the insects will build up a resistance to the response.

The Future

Although complete eradication is not yet in the foreseeable future, a new hope comes in the form of a young Ugandan man.

A computer scientist named Brian Gitta created a malaria detection device that is affordable, painless and easy to use.

The National Malaria Control Program, in partnership with the Epidemiology and Surveillance Division of the Ministry of Health, has also developed an emergency response plan.


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Shelby Hawkins
My name is Shelby, like the mustang, and I am an avid lover of photography, literature and desserts. I identify as a proud feminist and Pan-Africanist; hopefully that manifests in my writing.