The World Health Organization says a recent outbreak of of dengue fever is responsible for more than 70 deaths in central Sudan as of Friday. The UN health agency says the outbreak has raised fears that the disease may spread to vulnerable populations in Darfur and south Sudan.
At least 75 people have died and more than 300 have been infected by a dangerous strain of dengue fever in Kordofan, central Sudan. The hemorrhagic strain of dengue fever is spread by mosquitos and causes bleeding and shock, sometimes ending in death.
Dr. Guido Sabitinelli is head of the World Health Organization in Sudan. He told VOA Friday that the disease is spreading rapidly, reaching epidemic status in Kordofan in just two weeks. He now fears that it might go beyond Kordofan. "We don't which are the potentialities because we don't know where are the mosquitoes and how distributed and how dense is the population of the mosquitoes that can spread the disease. So not knowing this information, it is clear that we are on standby, on alert to detect any outbreaks in other parts of Sudan," he said.
Dr. Sabitinelli says if the disease is not contained, it may spread to wet, humid areas in southern Sudan, as well as to Darfur in western Sudan, where the conditions make the people particularly vulnerable to the fever. Millions of Darfuris are already weakened by hunger and illness, and they are packed tightly into camps for displaced persons.
It is not unusual for small outbreaks of dengue to occur during Sudan's rainy season, but the UN health agency says this year's epidemic is particularly serious.
To contain the spread of dengue, the WHO has dispatched two medical experts to the area, and is working along with non-governmental organizations to distribute mosquito nets and destroy mosquito breeding grounds.
There is no vaccine or medicine for dengue fever. Dr. Sabitinelli says the WHO will assist infected patients by providing vitamins and IV fluids.