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Iraq: Undiagnosed respiratory illness with several cases and deaths

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  • Iraq: Undiagnosed respiratory illness with several cases and deaths

    ************************************************** *************************
    A ProMED-mail post
    ProMED-mail is a program of the
    International Society for Infectious Diseases

    Date: Fri 23 Jan 2009
    Source: Puk Media [in Arabic, machine trans., edited]

    Mysterious disease kills 5 people in northern Babil
    According to Hassan, the Chairman of the Commission Services in the
    Province, a mysterious disease, which doctors have not been able to
    diagnose so far, has spread in Babil province in the past few days.
    The regions of Al-Ghazali southeast of the province and the northern
    Babil Jurf al-Sakhar, have recorded a number of casualties from the
    disease. Doctors believe that a type of fungus infected the lungs and
    killed the injured 5 days after infection.

    He pointed out that the 7 cases and deaths from the mysterious
    disease have occurred in the region of Al-Ghazali 41 km (25.5 mi)
    south of Al-Hillah, and Jurf al-Sakhar 30 km (19 mi) north. He called
    on the Ministry of Health to work to determine the nature of the
    disease, diagnosis, and provision of medical supplies and medicines
    necessary for treatment.

    It should be noted that last summer [2008] there was an outbreak of
    cholera in Babil that spread to several regions in the province as
    announced by the local government. Particularly affected was the area
    of Al-Ghazali and surrounding areas, where recently there was also an
    outbreak of measles.

    Communicated by:

    [The machine translation above is less than perfect but suggests that
    there have been 7 cases and 5 fatalities related to a respiratory
    illness in Babil province of Iraq during the past few days. At
    present the diagnosis is unknown, but local physicians are suspecting
    a fungal etiology. Apparently the course of the disease is rapid with
    fatalities occurring within 5 days of onset of illness.

    In the absence of further information, it is very difficult to
    speculate on the possible etiology, especially a fungal etiology
    associated with a rapid down hill course. One wonders if the actual
    disease is associated with an acute respiratory distress syndrome
    (ARDS), producing a "white out" effect on chest x-rays. But, rather
    than speculate further, it is more prudent to request more
    information from knowledgeable sources on the clinical picture,
    laboratory testing performed to date, and equally important, the
    epidemiology of this apparent cluster -- does there appear to be
    person-to-person transmission, what is the age distribution of cases,
    is there a possible common animal exposure?

    Babil province is south of Baghdad and can be located on the map of
    Iraq at
    For the HealthMap/ProMED interactive map with links to other recent
    ProMED-mail postings on health related events in Iraq and neighboring
    countries, see <,43.8,5>. - Mod.MPP]