VHF outbreak in Herat Province kills
HERAT, 27 August 2008 (IRIN) - An outbreak of Viral
Hemorrhagic Fever (VHF) has killed at least three
people in Herat Province, western Afghanistan, over
the past three days, the Ministry of Public Health has
The highly contagious disease was first reported on
26 August in Herat city where health officials
confirmed 10 VHF suspected cases.
"All 10 suspected patients have been put in
quarantine in Herat hospital," said Gulam Saeed
Rashid, director of Herat's public health department,
adding that VHF was transmissible from human-to-human
and animal-to-human in situations of close physical
"We are doing everything in our capacity to [stop]
the disease," he said, adding that aid organisations
must provide technical and medical assistance to curb
the further spread of the virus.
"VHF is more serious than
HIV/AIDS and can rapidly
infect thousands of people," Rashid said.
Others are also worried: Health officials in
Herat's neighbouring province of Ghor have expressed
concern about their "vulnerability" to the disease and
inability to control any outbreak.
There are several types of VHF. Most are caused by
five distinct families of viruses - Arenaviridae,
Filoviridae, Bunyaviridae, Togaviridae and
Flaviviridae - according to the World Health
The VHF reported in Herat has been characterised by
severe fever, bleeding diathesis, headache, vomiting
"Our preliminary diagnosis has indicated that the
disease might have been spread by ticks, particularly
sheep ticks," said Ahmadshah Shokohmand, an official
in the Ministry of Public Health in Kabul.
The 10 suspected cases were mostly butchers,
shepherds and/or those involved with animal husbandry,
health officials said.
Officials estimated there were 2.5 million sheep in
Herat Province but there was uncertainty as to how
many animals might have been infected by the virus.
The treatment of a VHF patient requires antiviral
therapy and intensive medical care, health experts
However, public health officials in Herat said they
had only one type of tablet which can be helpful; they
could not guarantee quick treatment or a complete cure
for VHF patients. "The tablets we have, have a 50
percent success rate," said Herat health department's
VHF has rarely occurred in Afghanistan, so the
country does not have advanced technical and medical
resources to tackle it quickly, health officials said.
Herat Province has suffered numerous problems
recently: an extremely cold winter in 2007-2008,
severe drought, dust storms, unusual diseases such as
Charmak, and now VHF.
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[This report does not necessarily
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