Mysterious disease recurs in Mola village

Walter Nyamukondiwa Kariba Bureau
A VILLAGER in the Mola area of Nyaminyami district in Kariba died after vomiting blood in a suspected recurrence of a mysterious condition that has been affecting villagers in the area in recent years.

Karikoga Mujokeli, believed to have been in his late 30s, died on Sunday at Siakobvu Hospital after presenting symptoms that included vomiting blood.

The mysterious condition, which has to date claimed an estimated 20 people in the area over the last three years, has been attributed to complications arising from untreated bilharzia.

Tests conducted in the area in 2019 established that most of those sampled were clinically anaemic, stunted and had moderate to massive splenomegaly or bulging of the tummy.

Mujokeli’s death has raised fears that the condition, which had somewhat disappeared, could be rebounding.

Mashonaland West provincial medical director Dr Wenceslaus Nyamayaro said investigations into what could have caused the death were underway.

“We have had this challenge for some time in which people vomit blood before dying and we cannot rule this one out,” he said. “Investigations are underway to establish what could have led to the death.

“Our team went to investigate the condition last year, but treatment for those affected was complicated.” The chronic condition affects different parts of the body including internal organs such as lungs, liver and the brain.

Dr Nyamayaro said most of the people who were taken to Harare for treatment had suffered internal dysfunctions.

“It was deemed difficult to conduct surgical operations on the people who were identified because there were fears that surgery could lead to rupturing of already fragile internal organs,” he said.

“As a result, the operations did not go ahead as intended. The condition, therefore, will continue to affect people as there are fears that the water being used in the affected areas is contaminated.”

Dr Nyamayaro said late stages of the disease required specialist management owing to multiple organ complications, including oesophageal varices, which need endoscopic banding, and massive upper gastrointestinal bleeding needing resuscitation.

Mola is situated in Kariba district’s Ward 3 and has a population of about 6 412 people.

It falls under geographical Region 5, which is dry and prone to perennial food insecurity.

Residents rely heavily on food assistance from Government and non-governmental organisations, while a SMART survey carried out in January 2019, showed that villagers had a minimum acceptable diet score of 1,6 percent.

The medical team also established that the villagers who were vomiting large quantities of blood before collapsing and dying were found in Dobe (3 deaths), Nabole (10) and Chiweshe (2) villages.

It was established that those affected were between the ages of 18 and 45, with the majority being men (11), while there were seven women who died.

At least three other deaths occurred at Kariba Hospital, Mola Clinic and Mutendere Mission Hospital in Chirundu, Zambia.

Research also showed that at least 42 of people aged between 19 and 50 years were said to have had at least one episode of haematemesis, which is the vomiting of blood.

However, the majority of those affected never sought treatment at known health facilities. Stool, blood and urine sample results showed mild to moderate anaemia and moderate to severely low blood platelets, which help in clotting, while Schistosoma mansoni was isolated in stool.

Water samples collected showed snails.

The medical team noted poor health seeking behaviour tied to cultural beliefs and myths, where villagers attributed their conditions to witchcraft.

It also noted lack of knowledge on schistosomiasis among the villagers, poor diet and access to water and sanitation.

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