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Chikungunya ‘spreading in Sudan’; Kassala reopens schools

October 3 - 2018 KHARTOUM / KASSALA
Kassala state in eastern Sudan (wikipedia)
Kassala state in eastern Sudan (wikipedia)

According to the Communist Party of Sudan, the chikungunya* epidemic is spreading from Kassala state to the north-west. The Governor of Kassala has reversed the decision of the state’s Ministry of Education to close schools for three days because of the epidemic.

The medical sector of the party reported on Tuesday that ten cases of chikungunya fever were recorded in El Gedaref, eight in Northern State, and five in Khartoum last week.

In a press statement, the party urged “an immediate declaration of Kassala as an epidemic zone”, and advised the closing of schools and universities in the state.

Residents of Kassala have expressed concern and anger at Governor Adam Jamaa’s cancellation of the decision of the Ministry of Education to close all schools in Kassala town for three days because of the epidemic.

They told Radio Dabanga that government vehicles roamed the town on Monday evening announcing via loudspeakers the cancellation of the measure.

Lack of laboratories

The outbreak of chikungunya fever, popularly known as kankasha, began in August after heavy rains hit the state and El Gash river flooded large pieces of land.

Medics lament the fact that there are no well-equipped laboratories in the state. “Blood samples can only be analysed in Port Sudan or Khartoum,” one of them explained. “As transport is difficult because of the rains, if not impossible at the countryside, many people die without a medical examination.”

Medical doctor and university professor Tajeldin Mohamedein told this station that he does not rule out the presence of dengue fever in Kassala as well. “The only solution is to combat the vector of the disease,” he said.

No deaths – Two per cent fatal

Activists are calling on social media for support to halt the epidemic. On Twitter for example the hashtag #KassalaIsDying is being used (#كسلا_تحتضر).

They accuse the Sudanese authorities of sweeping the real numbers of infected people under the carpet, and criticise them for not doing enough. Residents of Kassala have reported aircraft spraying pesticides.

Earlier this week, government officials reported that at least 13,400 people in Kassala are infected with the mosquito-borne disease.

The director of the Emergency and Epidemiology Department of the Sudanese Ministry of Health, Salah El Mubarak, reported on Tuesday that the chikungunya epidemic did not lead to any deaths in Sudan.

The governor of Kassala, Adam Jamaa, told reporters in mid-September that seven chikungunya patients had died. Later, he denied that people had died of the infectious disease.

The State Minister of Health, Souad El Karib, said end September that the percentage of deaths due to chikungunya accounts for two percent of all reported infections. Earlier government statistics showed that 12,080 people were affected. This would mean there have been more than 2,400 deaths.

He told reporters in Khartoum that he sent a medical team to Kassala state, consisting of eight doctors, four laboratory technicians, and an insect specialist.

According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO) the combat of the disease requires $ 5 million in funding.

* Chikungunya is a virus transmitted by the same kind of mosquito that spreads dengue and Zika virus. It is characterised by an abrupt onset of fever, frequently accompanied by joint pain. There is no specific antiviral drug treatment for chikungunya. Treatment is directed primarily at relieving the symptoms, including the joint pain. Most patients recover fully within weeks, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several months, or even years. Serious complications are not common, but in older people, the disease can contribute to the cause of death.

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