4 May 2018

Tanzania: Rare Disease Hits Zanzibar Isles

Photo: New Times
Zanzibar’s Minister for health and social welfare, Hamad Rashid Mohammed interacts with the patients on the island.

Dar es Salaam — Authorities in Zanzibar are struggling to control the spread of an outbreak dubbed "Chikungunya", a serious infectious disease caused by a mosquito-related virus said to have hit the isles earlier this year.

Zanzibar's minister for health and social welfare, Hamad Rashid Mohammed, said that the outbreak was first reported in Zanzibar's Stone Town and the isles and the government reacted by spraying repellants in the area in efforts to contain the virus.

The infection, according to the minister, is transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus species.

Although Chikungunya does not often result in death, it can trigger chronic joint pains that may last months or years, according to experts.

Among the most common signs and symptoms of Chikungunya are flu-chills, fevers, headaches and aching joints particularly in the hands, wrists, ankles and feet, nausea, fatigue, and skin rashes among others.

"We have tried to contain the virus by spraying, but it appears to have resurfaced this time around due to ongoing rains," said the Minister.

According to the minister, appropriate medication for curing the disease has already been supplied by the island government to various health centres across Zanzibar.

The health minister further said the problem is that most of the patients prefer to seek treatment at the main hospital of the island which has led to an influx, yet other medical centres remain with no patients.

"Although we don't have exact number of people affected by the Chikungunya virus, the referral hospital of Mnazi Mmoja receives at least 50 new cases per day," Mohammed said.

He said his ministry and other government entities are grappling with the issue.

Aedes mosquito is also responsible for other diseases such as yellow fever, dengue fever, Zika fever and Mayaro.

Experts say that Chikungunya is mostly not fatal but its pain can be highly excruciating.

The pain is debilitating and can make it difficult even to walk properly for many patients. Many symptoms of Chikungunya are similar to those of dengue and Zika.

As a result of this, it can be easily misdiagnosed in areas where both these diseases are common.

The mosquito itself is recognisable by white markings of its legs and marking in the form of a lyre on the upper surface of its thorax.

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