Bromide suspected as cause of mystery illness in Angola, says UN agency

Bromide suspected as cause of mystery illness in Angola, says UN agency

Toxicological tests carried out on blood samples from victims of an outbreak of a mystery illness in Angola have detected very high levels of bromide, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today.

Toxicological tests carried out on blood samples from victims of an outbreak of a mystery illness in Angola have detected very high levels of bromide, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today.

The tests, conducted in Germany, found the high bromide levels in five of the six samples taken from patients, and additional samples are now being sent to the United Kingdom for further analysis to determine whether the hypothesis can be confirmed.

WHO said in a statement that bromide intoxication was already one of the working hypotheses explored by authorities as they try to find the cause of the outbreak, which began last month. The symptoms include extreme drowsiness and loss of muscle control and, although most patients recover slowly over a number of days, many are still unable to walk without assistance. Children suffer the most extreme symptoms.

As of Monday, the number of patients treated in hospital in Cacuaco municipality – which is located in the suburbs of the capital, Luanda – has passed 390, with children comprising almost two-thirds of all cases.

WHO is stepping up its support to Angolan health authorities, providing staff and equipment as they carry out more epidemiological studies, environmental investigations and public awareness campaigns about risk management. The extra staff include a field coordinator, a clinician, two epidemiologists, a food safety expert, a laboratory specialist and a logistician.