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Last Updated

04 Nov 2002

Source: Associate Press, March 6, 2002.

Outbreak Kills 28 in Afghanistan

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan (AP) - A form of hemorrhagic fever has broken out in eastern Afghanistan, reportedly killing 28 people and raising fears that the disease could spread, a U.N. official said Wednesday.

The number of deaths was not confirmed, and it was not immediately clear over what period they had occurred, said Farhana Faruqi, the head of the U.N. delegation in northern Afghanistan.

The outbreak took place in Tajwara village about 210 miles west of the capital of Kabul, said Faruqi. She said the disease was reported in the district last year.

"It is contagious, but so far only one village is affected," Faruqi told The Associated Press.

U.N. officials had informed the World Health Organization about the outbreak, and WHO officials were believed to be planning to travel to the region to assess how to respond, Faruqi said.

There are several different kinds of hemorrhagic fever with varying levels of seriousness ranging from mild illness to death. Ebola is one kind of hemorrhagic fever.

It was not immediately known what kind of hemorrhagic fever had broken out in Tajwara.

Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever broke out in Pakistan, Afghanistan's eastern neighbor, in late February. Doctors attributed the deaths of three people to the disease.

The virus that causes Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever -- which is found in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe -- is transmitted by ticks, which thrive on sheep and cattle. Infected people can transmit the virus by blood, saliva or droplets from sneezing.

The disease causes a sharp drop in platelets, which allow the blood to clot. Without rapid treatment by antivirus drugs and replacement of platelets, victims can bleed to death.

In Geneva, World Health Organization spokesman Iain Simpson said it was unlikely that the reported outbreak was Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever.

"This is really the wrong time of year for Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, because it's a tick-borne disease and the ticks normally die out in the winter," Simpson said.

He said the last cases of the disease in Afghanistan were in November, just ahead of the harsh winter season. Because the fever has an incubation period of up to three weeks, none of the recent reports could be linked to that outbreak, he said.