Health Ministry stymied by mystery illness spreading across Assiut

A potentially life-threatening illness spreading across Assiut has sent 62 people to the hospital so far, but health care workers are still struggling to identify the sickness.

As of Tuesday, 22 patients were still in treatment and in stable condition, according to a Health Ministry statement that denied reports of deaths linked to the malady.

Common symptoms include nighttime fevers that subside in the day, severe headaches, stomach pain and vomiting, fatigue and sharp pains across the body, particularly the lower back. Both men and women ranging in age from 10 to 45 years old have been afflicted, the ministry said.

Dozens of people reporting these symptoms from three different villages in Assiut have been quarantined at the Dairyut Fevers Hospital since early August, the statement said.

Fearing contamination of the local water supply, the ministry deployed a team of water analysts to the affected villages on October 8. On Wednesday, however, ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed told local media that the test results showed the water was “100 percent normal and safe.” He dismissed rumors that the water had been contaminated with typhoid.

“As of yet, there is still no clear scientific explanation behind the fever cases that have emerged in Assiut,” Megahed said Wednesday morning in an interview on the Yahdoth fi Masr (Happening in Egypt) talk show, which airs on the privately owned satellite channel MBC Egypt.

Health Ministry personnel are still conducting tests in the affected villages to try to determine the source of the illness, Tuesday’s statement said. Health officials have collected random blood samples from 2,662 area residents, as well as other environmental samples from 302 residences in the villages.

Officials hope the tests will help to identify and pinpoint the source of the mysterious illness, thus allowing health care professionals to halt its spread.


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