Strange Disease Claims 3 Lives


By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Teams from the Ministry of Health and Social Services are still investigating what is suspected to be paralysis or weakness of the lower limbs, which has so far claimed three lives. As far as New Era could establish yesterday, 28 people from Havana, Goreangab and surrounding informal settlements were hospitalised at the Katutura Hospital with the disease, whose symptoms are similar to those of poliomyelitis. However, the ministry of Health and Social Services could not confirm these. Acting Permanent Secretary Maggie Nghatanga told New Era yesterday the situation is critical but stable in the sense that no admissions were made yesterday. Nghatanga could not say what was going on as the sickness is still under investigation by the laboratories and other professionals on the ground. New Era has also learnt that health and senior government officials were locked up in meetings yesterday to discuss the mysterious ailment. Nghatanga said more information about the disease would only be given out today by Deputy Minister Petrina Haingura at a press conference. “We are still investigating the situation to see where we are and what is happening,” said she. It is also believed that tests were carried out to determine whether contamination of water could have led to the sickness. According to a hospital insider, the disease, whose symptoms are weakness of the lower limbs is contagious and the patients were kept in isolation in Ward 5A. “They feel weak and get paralysed afterwards,” she said. “It is very dangerous,” she added. A local daily yesterday quoted the Superintendent of the Katutura Hospital as saying that the first patient was admitted on May 13 with paralysis and shortness of breath. As of yesterday, other hospitals such as the Medi-Clinic had not admitted any patient with such symptoms. A guardian of a child who is suspected to have the same disease said the three-year-old child was in pain and had fever and loss of appetite. “It started Sunday morning when the child woke up but could not get out of bed. We thought he just wanted to play. He was just sliding from the bed and could not walk,” said the guardian. The child was taken to hospital on Monday, May 21 and had several tests including blood, spine, urine and a head scan. No results have been obtained yet. The child was admitted on Friday May 26 but can now walk and eat. Paralysis is the complete loss of muscle function of one or more muscle groups. Its major causes are stroke, trauma, poliomyelitis, multiple sclerosis and the Guillain-Barre syndrome. Poison that interferes with nerve function can also cause paralysis.