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NCDC Investigates Unknown Illness Outbreak in Sokoto State, Nigeria

NCDC Reports 164 Cases Unknown Illness Outbreak in Sokoto

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has reported a concerning outbreak of an unknown illness in the Isa Local Government Area of Sokoto State, with a total of 164 suspected cases and four fatalities.

The director-general of NCDC, Dr. Jide Idris, disclosed this information during a press briefing held in Abuja, shedding light on the gravity of the situation and the ongoing efforts to address it.

According to Dr. Idris, the affected wards within Isa local government area include Bargaja, Isa North, Isa South, Tozai, Tsabre, and Turba. Distressingly, four deaths have been recorded among the suspected cases, prompting immediate response measures by health authorities.

The NCDC was first notified of the reported cases by the Sokoto State Ministry of Health on March 21, 2024. Children primarily presented symptoms such as abdominal distension, fever, vomiting, and weight loss, raising concerns about the nature and potential spread of the illness. Most of the affected individuals are children aged 4 to 13 years, with some adults also exhibiting similar symptoms. The cases originated from various wards and settlements across the local government area.

Currently, two suspected cases are receiving care at the Uthman Dan Fodio University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH) in Sokoto, while one case has been discharged following improved symptoms. Additionally, four other suspected cases are undergoing treatment at the Isa General Hospital. Approximately 130 cases are receiving care either within Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) or through home care arrangements within the affected local government area.

Initial clinical assessments and investigations conducted at the Teaching Hospital have ruled out an infectious origin of the outbreak. This development has prompted health authorities to explore alternative causes, including the possibility of heavy metal poisoning. Results of initial tests for heavy metals conducted on the index and first few suspected cases revealed varying blood levels of lead (Pb) and chromium (Cr).

Dr. Idris emphasized the need for thorough investigation into the potential causes of the illness, considering various factors such as mining and agricultural practices prevalent in the affected communities. Activities such as the use of chemicals and pesticides in agricultural practices, as well as the health-seeking behaviors of the communities, are being closely scrutinized for their potential impact on public health.

In response to the outbreak, samples of various materials including blood, abdominal fluids, soil, water, locally grown food produce, pesticides, and chemicals have been collected for analysis. These samples will undergo rigorous testing to identify any potential contaminants or hazardous substances that may be contributing to the outbreak.

The NCDC boss also highlighted a similar incident documented in 2023, which also lacked a definitive diagnosis. This underscores the complexity of the current situation and the importance of concerted efforts by health authorities to swiftly identify and address the underlying causes of the outbreak.

In conclusion, the outbreak of an unknown illness in the Isa local government area of Sokoto State has prompted urgent response measures by health authorities. The NCDC, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, is working diligently to investigate the outbreak and implement necessary interventions to protect public health and prevent further spread of the illness.

This Article is Fact-Checked. See Policy.

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