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WHO investigating death in Tanzania due to unknown illness

NAIROBI (Reuters) – A woman whose death in Tanzania is being investigated by the World Health Organization probably did not have Ebola, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday.

There is increased vigilance across the region because of an outbreak of Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo, and the WHO said on Thursday it was looking into the death of a patient in Tanzania.

The woman who died in Dar es Salaam on Sept. 8 presented symptoms common to several diseases, including dengue or malaria, both endemic in East Africa, said Justin Williams, the director for communication and policy at the Nairobi office of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Such symptoms also present in Ebola, he said, but there was no indication the woman had traveled to an affected area or had contact with an infected person.

“It’s more likely something else. She has not traveled to the (Democratic Republic of Congo) and was not in close contact to an Ebola patient from DRC or Uganda,” he told Reuters.

He added that the Tanzanian government or the WHO may release test results either late on Friday or on Saturday. Ebola testing usually takes one to two days, Williams said.

The WHO regional office for Africa said in a statement on Thursday it was aware of a rumor of a death from an unknown illness, adding that the agency “is working with national health authorities and is deploying a technical team to Tanzania to investigate this rumor as a matter of urgency”.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told Reuters in Geneva on Friday that the agency “does not have official confirmation of any particular disease”.

The Tanzanian Health Ministry did not answer calls.

The Ebola outbreak in Congo, the world’s second largest in history, has infected almost 3,000 people in Congo since it began in August 2018, killing two thirds of them.

A few cases have been confirmed in Uganda after infected patients crossed the border, but all either died or were sent back to Congo for specialised treatment.

Reporting by Omar Mohammed in Nairobi; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala in Dar es Salaam; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Frances Kerry

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