While the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to investigate a mysterious disease in South Sudan, the disease has claimed another victim. So far, the disease has killed 97 people in Fangaka, Jonglei state, in northern South Sudan.
Fangak County Commissioner Bil Boutros Bil told ABC News Thursday that the latest victim of the unknown disease was an elderly woman.
In a press release, the South Sudan Ministry of Health said the disease appears to be mostly affecting the elderly and children under the age of 14.
The health ministry also reported that symptoms of the mysterious disease include cough, diarrhea, fever, headache, joint pain, loss of appetite, weakness in the body and chest pain.
WHO representatives visited the region to investigate the disease, but as Bil Boutros Bil told ABC News, they left the region without informing local authorities of their findings.
The Fangak region has recently been hit hard by extreme flooding, increasing the burden on local health authorities due to endemic diseases such as malaria and cholera, South Sudan’s Ministry of Health said.
In November, the humanitarian aid group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned that the floods in South Sudan are the “perfect storm for disease outbreaks.”
Newsweek previously reported that more than 200,000 people have been displaced by the worst flooding in the region in 60 years. MSF said affected people are at “increased risk of outbreaks and water-borne diseases such as acute watery diarrhea, cholera and malaria.”
Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection that can be caused by drinking contaminated water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cholera, like the mysterious disease affecting South Sudan, causes copious watery diarrhea.
The CDC adds that people with severe cholera can develop severe dehydration, which can lead to kidney failure. If left untreated, the disease can lead to death within hours.
ABC News reported that a WHO team, which had to reach the area by helicopter because of flooding, took samples from patients that came back negative for cholera.
Earlier this year, MSF warned in a statement that global aid in response to the flooding was inadequate. Speaking about conditions at the flood displacement camp in Bentiu, just 75 miles from Fangak, MSF emergency operations manager Will Turner said: “The dangerously slow and inadequate humanitarian response to this crisis puts lives at risk. The deplorable situation at the displaced persons camp at Bentiu, a former UN civilian protection facility, is not a new phenomenon.
“Over the years, we have repeatedly warned of the terrible conditions, but other organizations and agencies responsible for water and sanitation in the camp have not stepped up or adjusted their activities sufficiently. This paralysis results in horrific living conditions and enormous health risks for people living in Camp Bentiu and the temporary camps in Bentiu City.”