Dar es Salaam. After days of investigations, experts have finally been able to name the mysterious disease that was causing tension in Tanzania’s southern regions, whose victims reported nosebleeding before falling down.
Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu on Monday named the disease leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals, caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the CDC, the disease is spread through the urine of infected animals, which can get into water or soil and can survive there for weeks to months. Many different kinds of wild and domestic animals carry the bacterium, the agency says.
Monday’s revelation comes after the disease has claimed the lives of at least three people from the Ruangwa district, Lindi region, with at least other thirteen people reported to have contracted the disease.
First reported on July 12, 2022, by President Samia Suluhu Hassan, the disease has sent shock waves across the globe, especially due to the fact that its symptoms – nosebleeding – resemble those of Ebola, a deadly disease affecting both human and nonhuman primates.
Since it was first reported, a team of experts – both from the Health Ministry and the World Health Organisation (WHO) – has been working on the ground to find out what was exactly ailing the people in the regions.
On Monday, Ms Mwalimu, who doubles as Tanga Urban MP (Chama cha Mapinduzi – CCM) toured the Ruangwa district in Lindi, where the investigation was taking place, and it was where she made the revelation from.
The revelation itself comes a day after the government declined requests from foreign governments and organisations to have the specimens for the disease tested outside the country, saying it was capable of carrying out its own investigations.
“There have been reports requesting our specimens and want them to be tested outside the country,” Mwalimu said Saturday during a function in Kilimanjaro. “We have the equipment and experts to detect communicable diseases in our country.”
According to the CDC, Leptospirosis’ symptoms include high fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and rash.
The agency explains on its website that some of these symptoms may be mistaken for other diseases, with some infected persons may have no symptoms at all.
According to the agency, without treatment, Leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis, which inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord, liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.
Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics, such as doxycycline or penicillin, which should be given early in the course of the disease, the organisation explains.
Mwalimu urged citizens to take deliberate measures to prevent themselves from the disease, including by touching water or substances dirted by animals’ urine. She urged citizens to make sure they drink only safe-drinking water.