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Nicaragua Epidemic’s Cause Eludes Doctors Fifteen Dead, Hundreds Ill; U.S. Tests Fail To Name Disease

American, Cuban and Nicaraguan specialists have been unable to identify a disease moving through the northeast of the country that has left at least 15 people dead and more than 1,500 ill.

Health authorities say eight other deaths may have been caused by the disease but have not yet been confirmed. The illness shows signs of spreading to other parts of the country, said Health Minister Federico Munoz.

The disease has symptoms of often-fatal hemorrhagic dengue, but tests made in the United States show it is not dengue or yellow fever, Munoz said. The tests were done by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The analyses coincide with those realized by Cuban and Nicaraguan specialists … and we still don’t know the cause of the epidemic,” he said.

He said that 1,549 patients have been treated since the illness was first reported two weeks ago, many of them from the small town of Achuapa, 125 miles northeast of the capital.

The eight deaths under investigation are in neighboring states of Chinandega, Esteli, Matagalpa and Chontales, leading health officials to fear that the disease is spreading.

Symptoms include bleeding from the eyes and nose, fainting, fever and headaches.