From The Guardian
Evidence suggests a mysterious illness that has killed 12 people in Liberia is linked to food or drink poisoning and is not a viral infection, the UN said Friday, confirming three new cases.
The World Health Organization said that as of Wednesday the number of patients had risen to 28, with the sickness still unexplained although Ebola and Lassa fever have been ruled out.
Results from ongoing tests at labs in the United States and Europe are still pending, but WHO spokesman Tarik Jaserevic told reporters in Geneva that “the overall risk of spread is low.”
Surveillance is being strengthened through line-listing of cases, contact identification and follow-up, active case search and collection of food and drink samples for toxicology testing. Attendants of the funeral and contacts have been listed and are under follow-up.
The laboratory analysis is being strengthened. Water testing from the sources serving the affected areas has been conducted and preliminary results ruled out bacterial contamination. Heavy metal and chemical testing is ongoing. The government has requested WHO, CDC, and MSF to support the process of toxicological testing outside the country. Samples are being sent to different laboratories for additional testing.
Community engagement is being strengthened, with the support of UNICEF, through mass public awareness, local leaders’ mobilization, and community member sensitization. Infection prevention and control measures are being implemented, namely re-enforcement of hand hygiene practices, water points testing and safe burials.
At this stage the overall risk of spread of the event is considerate as low. The event is clustered among the participants of the funeral. In addition, there is a sharp decrease in the number of cases and deaths reported since 25 April 2017. These findings are indicative of a point source of exposure. The possibility of a food/ drink/ water contamination event is being actively investigated and the toxicology laboratory test will help to elaborate this hypothesis. A case-control study to identify possible exposures linked to illness is being conducted.