New ‘nosebleed’ disease, similar to Ebola, confuses doctors

BENI, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - 2019/06/12: A doctor in full protective gear talks to a patient at the Ebola treatment center in Beni in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is currently experiencing the second-worst Ebola outbreak on record. More than 1,400 people have died. (Photo by Sally Hayden/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Patients with the mysterious disease have been isolated, with measures taken for diseases like Ebola (Image: Sally Hayden/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Doctors and health experts are scrambling to identify a mysterious “nosebleed” disease in Tanzania that has killed three people.

So far there have been 13 cases of the unidentified disease in a southeastern region of the country.

Symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, fatigue and nosebleeds, the government’s chief medical officer Aifello Sichalwe said in a statement on Wednesday.

A type of viral hemorrhagic fever, a type of virus that damages the walls of small blood vessels and causes them to leak, appears to cause the disease.

The World Health Organization has identified four such viruses – Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever, Marburg and Ebola – as “priority pathogens” that could potentially trigger pandemics.

But the patients have all tested negative for Ebola and Marburg, the two known hemorrhagic viruses in the region, Mr Sichalwe said.

They also tested negative for Covid-19.

One patient has reportedly recovered while the others remain isolated.

Ebola virus on science background

The mysterious disease shows similarities to Ebola, but the patients all tested negative for the deadly virus (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

dr Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, said it’s not yet clear how worrying the cases are.

However, it was later clarified that she is “completely and unequivocally opposed to unexplained viral hemorrhagic fevers” on Twitter.

The cases come as Ghana first detected the Marburg virus last week.

Two people died after contracting the virus, prompting a scramble to identify potential contacts and prevent an outbreak.

It is only the second time the disease has been detected in West Africa.

Marburg virus is a hemorrhagic fever virus first described during small epidemics in the German cities of Marburg and Frankfurt and the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade in the 1960s. Marburg virus (MARV) causes serious illness in humans and non-human primates in the form of viral hemorrhagic fever. (Photo by: Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The Marburg virus has just been detected in Ghana for the first time (Image: Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan hinted that the new disease may be due to the “increasing interaction” between humans and wildlife caused by environmental degradation.

Around the world, experts are warning of population growth leading to human encroachment on jungles and forests, combined with increasing wildlife trade, leading to increased spread of new and existing viruses.

Analysis published by the WHO suggests that the threat from zoonotic diseases, diseases that spread from animals to humans, is increasing.

The number of zoonotic outbreaks has increased by 63% in the last 10 years compared to the previous decade, reports The Telegraph.

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Justin Scacco

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