Global Alert and Response (GAR)

1999 - Unidentified disease in Afghanistan

24 February 1999

Disease Outbreak Reported

On 13 February, an outbreak of an unidentified disease was reported to have occurred in Darwaz, Badakhshan. Symptoms were described as fever, cough, vomiting and diarrhoea, with infants and the elderly being most severely affected.

On 19 February the local authorities, in collaboration with WHO staff in the area, transported emergency medical supplies to 5 villages in a valley east of Nusai along the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The epidemic was found to be still ongoing, and blood and stool samples were taken and sent for analysis to the National Institute of Health in Islamabad, Pakistan. Preliminary figures for these 5 villages (of the 18 reported to be affected) are approximately 6 300 cases and 135 deaths. As communications and transportation are extremely difficult, current reports are incomplete with respect to villages affected and number of deaths, and the etiology of the disease is still unknown.

A specialized WHO team has left for the area to carry out a full investigation in collaboration with local health authorities and community leaders, to propose an action plan for response to the outbreak, and to coordinate further surveillance and disease control activities with other international agencies.

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