Sudan reports outbreak of mosquito-borne Chikungunya disease in eastern state

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - More than 11,000 people in Sudan’s eastern state of Kassala have been infected over the past month by Chikungunya, a debilitating mosquito-borne viral disease, but no deaths have been reported, a Sudanese official said on Tuesday.

Chikungunya is spread by two mosquito species and can cause severe symptoms, which develop three to seven days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, include high fever, headache, muscle pain, back pain and rash. There are no dedicated treatments or vaccines for Chikungunya.

In rare cases it is fatal.

“So far official statistics say that about 11,000 people were infected and there haven’t been any documented cases of death because of the Chikungunya fever,” Magzoub Abou Moussa, a spokesman for the Kassala state administration, said.

The outbreak began in recent weeks when heavy rains pummeled the area, which led to the flooding of a major river in Kassala.

Abu Moussa said his state had received health and technical aid from Sudan’s health ministry, but expressed concern over the spread of the virus and called for further help.

Eyewitnesses said they had seen planes on Monday sweeping over the state spraying mosquito pesticides.

Sudanese opposition parties have accused the government of failing to deal with the situation in Kassala and called for international organizations’ help.

“We hold the government fully responsible for the spread of the epidemic,” said a statement from the National Umma Party, the largest opposition party.

“We call on civil society organizations and the World Health Organization to help the people of Kassala.”

Activists on social media say the number of people infected by the disease is much higher than what the government has been reporting and that there have been deaths that the government has not documented.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, writing by Amina Ismail; Editing by Gareth Jones