23 November 2007

Angola: Bromide Believed Behind Cacuaco Epidemic

Luanda — Angolan Health Ministry said Thursday in Luanda that laboratory tests suggest that high content of sodium bromide detected in blood and kitchen salt samples may be behind the mysterious disease hitting Luanda's Cacuaco district since last October.

According to the Health minister, Ruben Sicato, at a press conference, the levels of sodium bromide detected in blood and kitchen salt samples following laboratory tests in Munich (Germany) and (Birmingham) London, give strong indications that that substance may be behind the Cacuaco acute neurological syndrome.

Specialists fear the existence of a mixture of bromide and salts in the food, instead of the usual kitchen salt (sodium chlorate).

Sodium bromide is a chemical used in the industries and looks like kitchen salt.

Besides blood and salt, samples of water and foodstuffs, totalling 10, were sent to the laboratories of Munich and Birmingham.

But, the minister said, the experts are still engaged in studies to confirm the cause and origin of the disease that has so far affected 414 people in Luanda, without causing death.

He stated that the World Health Organisation has decided to organise an international tele-conference from Luanda, Brazzaville and Geneva on November 19, with the participation of 50 specialists from 18 countries, seeking a contest to find the cause of the disease.

The specialists have claimed the need for more profound epidemiological studies leading to the definition of the real cause and origin of the problem, the minister stated.

Sleepiness, blear-eyedness, dizziness and difficulty to speak, walk and extreme tiredness are the symptoms of the disease.

Since the outbreak of the Acute Neurological Syndrome, a multisectoral team involving the Health Ministry, Luanda Government and the Ministries of Environment, Oil and WHO are working everyday on the ground.

Meanwhile, during the press conference, minister Ruben Sicato seized the occasion to announce that a whooping cough is hitting central Benguela province, with 63 cases.

The press conference was attended by WHO representative to Angola, Fatoumata Diallo, experts, Health Ministry specialists and Luanda deputy governor, Francisca do Espírito Santo.

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