World Health Organization officials said Friday that they are investigating a troubling report out of Liberia of a “cluster of unexplained illnesses and deaths” in an area several hours from Monrovia.
Since April 24, at least 17 people have fallen ill with fever, vomiting, headache, diarrhea. Eleven have died and the five are still hospitalized at the Francis Grant Hospital in Greenville, Sinoe County, which is about 4.5 hours southeast of the capital. Most of the victims are younger than 21. While the symptoms appear to mimic those of Ebola in the early stages, specimens analyzed from seven of the people who died came back negative for the virus.
The WHO said rapid-response teams from the WHO, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other partners have been sent to the area and are looking into reports that the victims may have attended the funeral of a religious leader.
“Further testing underway to find out the cause of the illness and deaths,” the WHO said in a statement. “The investigation teams will try to find if this could be in relation to the consumption of same food and drinks and if there is an environmental exposure to some chemicals or bacteria.”
Monrovia was one of the epicenters of the Ebola outbreak in 2014-2015. More than 10,000 people were confirmed to have been infected, and more than 4,800 died.
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