By Oscar Nkala

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported the outbreak of an undiagnosed disease that has affected 14, killed 8 and left 6 children under the age of 10 hospitalised since it was first detected in the Manafwa District of Eastern Uganda on May 23.

Map of Uganda/Alvaro1984 18
Map of Uganda/Alvaro1984 18

In an epidemiological notice issued on June 4, the WHO said the Ugandan Ministry of Health says preliminary investigations showed the disease – characterised by a high fever and passing of dark-coloured urine – to be affecting only children under the age of 10.

“A preliminary outbreak investigation carried out by the (Uganda) national rapid response team identified and line-listed 19 cases, including six deaths (with a case fatality rate of 31.6%), as of 26 May 2018. The current event started on 19 May 2018 when the first case in the cluster became ill, and most of the cases (11) occurred between 18 and 25 May 2018.

“The case patients, all children 10 years and below, commonly presented with high fever, abdominal pain, haematuria, signs of anaemia, jaundice, and other constitutional symptoms. This condition – usually responsive to antimalarial and antibiotic treatment – has reportedly been recurrent in all the case-patients, with 37% (or 7 out of 19) getting episodes since 2016,” the WHO said.

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To date, the disease has been confirmed in 3 out of the 10 sub-counties of Manafwa District. Nine out of the 11 blood specimens analysed have tested positive for malaria (Plasmodium falciparum) on rapid diagnostic test (RDT). Two tested negative.

The six deceased cases also had positive malaria RDT test results. To curb the spread of the disease, the Ministry of Health has deployed teams from the Epidemiology and Surveillance Division to conduct public health awareness while investigate the cause and source of the outbreak.  

The WHO said while malaria remains endemic in Manafwa District, epidemiologists should be “open-minded” and conduct a wide range of diagnostic and clinical investigations in order to better understand the new condition.