Suspected ebola case in prime Zimbabwean resort at Victoria Falls

Harare (dpa) - Zimbabwean health officials asked South African laboratories for help to investigate a suspected ebola case in the country's most popular tourist resort at Victoria Falls.

Media reports quoted Health minister David Parirenyatwa as saying that an Angolan cross border trader had died from the ebola fever virus.

Parirenyatwa said he had asked South African laboratories to help to confirm the suspected virus infection, and specimens had been already sent to be assessed.

The trader had crossed into Zimbabwe after travelling from Angola through Namibia and Botswana. He was admitted to Victoria Falls government hospital on Christmas Eve but died the following day, hospital authorities told the state-controlled Sunday Mail.

Parirenyatwa stressed the case was still only suspected, not confirmed. Efforts had been made to isolate the victim, and hospital staff had been put on alert for possible subsidiary infections.

The alert puts extra pressure on Zimbabwe's health system which is already on the point of paralysis due to a two months strike by junior doctors and nurses, protesting against pay and conditions.

Understaffed and ill equipped wards are also flooded with patients suffering from HIV related conditions.

Ebola, spread by contact with body fluids, is mostly fatal and there is, as yet, no cure. Earlier this year the disease has claimed the lives of dozens of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The symptoms include high temperature, bleeding and liquefaction of internal body organs. The disease is believed to originate among primate apes in Africa's equatorial forests and may be spread to humans by the bushmeat trade. dpa mh emc

AP-NY-12-28-03 0520EST


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