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Zimbabwe May Face Ebola Threat

Zimbabwe has reported its first suspected case of the deadly Ebola virus in Victoria Falls, a premier holiday resort. A sample of blood from the victim, who died in Victoria Falls, has been sent to South Africa for testing, and results are expected to be known later in the week.

The dead man has been identified by the government-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper as an Angolan citizen, a cross-border trader who had recently traveled into several southern African countries.

The Ministry of Health in Victoria Falls said it put the ill man into isolation in a hospital when it suspected he might have the incurable Ebola virus.

Whatever the cause of the man's death, it could not come at a worse time for Zimbabwe's failing health service. Most government doctors and many nurses have been on strike for several weeks, seeking pay rises.

Last week, at least five people were reported to have died from rabies and anthrax in a part of the country where the diseases have not been seen for many years.

There also is cholera in several places in Zimbabwe, including the second-most important tourist resort, the huge inland Kariba Lake that borders Zambia.

Dr. Stuart Hargreaves, the principal director of veterinary services, says the government has acknowledged that its veterinary statistics may no longer be reliable. He said that in the past few years, many important cattle fences had been broken or stolen, and there had been a dramatic increase in the movement of people and animals across the country.

He said any increase in rabies or anthrax could be linked to this. He said the incidence of foot and mouth disease among cattle had not subsided as had been hoped, after vaccinations of cattle in some provinces.

Zimbabwe's agricultural sector was thrown into turmoil in 2000 after President Robert Mugabe announced his fast-track land reform program, which led to 90 percent of commercial farmers being evicted from their land.

The Ministry of Health was not available for comment, but its officials have been quoted in the government-controlled press reporting the sudden increase of human deaths from rabies and anthrax.