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Biological Hazard – Unidentified Fatal Illness: Zoonotic Disease – Ethiopia, Somalia


Political Map of Ethiopia with international borders, the national capital Addis Ababa, region capitals, major cities, main roads, railroads, and major airports

Political Map of Ethiopia with international borders. Image Credit: Nations Online Project

Undiagnosed illness – Ethiopia, Somalia: human, camel, zoonosis suspected, Request For Information
Published Date: 2021-06-25 19:56:09
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Undiagnosed illness – Ethiopia, Somalia (02): human, camel, zoonosis susp, RFI
Archive Number: 20210625.8472897

[ProMED posting 20210624.8471650 included reports about a recent lethal camel illness, associated with a 3-digit number of cases of human illness in 2 southern regions of Ethiopia and in an area in Somalia adjacent to those regions. No deaths were reported from the human cases. The following 2 reports, dating back to 15 and 3 Jun 2021, respectively, add information about the seriously affected camels in the Somali region of Ethiopia and some additional details on the related illness in humans. – Mod.AS]

[1] Ethiopia, Somali region
Date: Tuesday, 15 June 2021
Source: Radio Ergo [edited]

More than 4000 camels have died of an undiagnosed disease in Ethiopia’s Somali region since May [2021], bankrupting thousands of pastoralists.

[HA], a resident of Sagag town in Nogob zone, lost the 5 camels in the 1st 2 weeks of May [2021] that her family depended on for their living. The unprecedented crisis forced her to relocate to Ciidadow village, where she and her children are lacking food and shelter.

“I have 10 children whose father is ill. We have nothing at all, and we are sleeping in the open cold!” she exclaimed.

[HA] has started a small tea shop to provide her family with one meal a day, using half a bag of sugar she takes on credit from a local shop to make the tea. She sells 2 thermos flasks daily and makes at most ETB 60 (just over USD 1) in profit.

[BMM], another affected pastoralist in Malayko, Nogob zone, has lost 15 of his 30 camels to the disease.

“We panicked when we lost our camels, but the residents and the government have counselled us. They promised to help us through this, and that has calmed our hearts,” he said.

[BMM] said they were shocked at the way their camels collapsed and died on the spot. “When the disease hits, the camel makes a noise and falls to the ground. Pregnant ones abort prematurely as they are dying,” he said. “I have never seen 15 camels die at once in the Gu season. This is a natural calamity we haven’t ever heard of before.”

Local people stopped consuming meat from the diseased camels after several people fell sick.

“Earlier, when the disease was new, some of the pastoralists were slaughtering the sickly camels before they died. But those who ate the meat fell sick. I myself was hospitalized for 10 days after eating the meat of a diseased camel,” [BMM] told Radio Ergo’s local reporter.

Locals have burnt the carcasses of most of the camels that died of the disease.

Samples from the affected camels have been sent to the Ethiopian National Veterinary Laboratory in Addis Ababa.

Dr Abdifatah Ahmed, a veterinarian at the Somali Regional Veterinary Laboratory, was sent to the area to collect data on the outbreak. He warned the public not to consume camel meat or milk until the disease is identified.

“I advise the pastoralists to quarantine the camels exhibiting signs of illness. I also advise them to take precautions with the diseased camels and to burn the carcasses or bury them in a 2 m [6.6 ft] hole,” he said.

Communicated by:
ProMED Rapporteur Joseph P Dudley


[2] Ethiopia, Somali region
Date: Thursday, 3 June 2021
Source: Somali Digital Media [abridged, edited]

Camel is the most valued animal in pastoral and agro-pastoral communities playing diverse socioeconomic roles of livestock producers in terms of meat and milk consumptions, cash income, and social and cultural prospects. Besides, national economic growths at the federal level as sources of huge hard foreign currency in camel exports internationally. However, camels are constrained and infected by multiple diseases causing camel health problems and loss in productions.

According to my tentative diagnosis on the current camel sudden death outbreaks, which were reported from many districts in Somali Region, I would like to mention it tentatively as “camel sudden death syndrome.”

What is camel sudden death syndrome?
Camel sudden death syndrome (CSDS) is a highly fatal, contagious, and infectious systemic disease with unknown etiology that mostly affects camel populations living in East Africa, particularly horn African countries. Usually, the disease causes sporadic outbreaks, but in horn African countries it has been reported several times during pre and post rainy seasons in different years since 1983.

The exact etiology of this disease hasn’t been confirmed scientifically. The disease is a multi-complex systemic disease affecting various organs and systems including respiratory, digestive, and urogenital tract systems showing complex systemic signs and symptoms such as high fever, sudden deaths, severe coughing, bleeding from orifices, blackish liver, splenomegaly, sometimes bloating, enlarged lymph nodes, and abortion in pregnant she-camels, and milk reduction in lactating she-camels.

The differential diagnoses of this disease are camel anthrax and camel acute respiratory complex syndrome.

CSDS mostly causes high mortality (80%) and morbidity (100%) rates in lactating, young, and immunocompromised camel animals.

Recently, camel disease outbreaks having similar clinical symptoms and signs of camel sudden death syndrome have been reported in various districts and administrative zones at Somali Regional State of Ethiopia.

This unconfirmed camel disease outbreak caused deaths of hundreds in the camel population, as cumulative reports indicated, particularly from highly affected and risk areas including Nogob, Korahay, and Shabelle zones of Somali Region, respectively.

The responsible institutions, such as Regional Livestock Resources and Pastoral Development Bureau (LRPDB), have deployed veterinary professional mobile teams to conduct an outbreak intervention against the current camel outbreak to collect laboratory samples and treatment campaigns.

Mr Dayib Ahmed, head of LRPDB, told the Somali Region TV (SRTV) that they implemented outbreak intervention programs to control the recent camel outbreak, and the different laboratory samples collected from affected areas were transported to National Animal Health Diagnosis and Investigation Center (NAHDIC) at Sebata. In addition, he said, “We are still waiting for the confirmation of the outbreak to undertake further implementation program s.”

Although the outbreak is highly transmissible among the camel populations, resulting in massive sudden deaths, it is beyond the capacity of the Regional Livestock Resources and Pastoral Development Bureau alone.

So far, as veterinarians, we are recommending other stakeholders like nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and responsible federal government institutions to fill existing gaps and challenges by conducting supportive intervention control programs against the unidentified CSDS in Somali region.
[Byline: Dr Ahmed Abdi Ugundhe, DVM, MSc in veterinary epidemiology candidate]

Communicated by:
ProMED Rapporteur Joseph P Dudley

[The recent reports of human and camel disease, affecting camel-breeding regions in Ethiopia and Somalia, may share a common zoonotic etiology. It is yet to be established if all affected humans were consumers of (illegally) traded meat from infected camels or if that some or more were rather exposed to infected tissues during slaughter or evisceration of affected camels.

Sudden mortality in (dromedary) camels has been reported several times in recent years from the region, primarily from Kenya and Ethiopia. Anthrax, pasteurellosis, and enterotoxaemia (caused by enterotoxins produced by strains of _Clostridium perfringens_) were named as candidate causative agents, as well as the viral diseases peste des petits ruminants (PPR) and Rift Valley fever (RVF).

Rift Valley fever, a hemorrhagic zoonotic disease, has been suspected in previous events in Ethiopia and Kenya as a camel-borne disease; addressing this possible etiology deserves to be prioritized. For a relevant description of RVF in humans, see ref 1.

MERS, a zoonotic coronavirus disease of which camels are the host animal, is not considered fatal in camels; though less likely, its involvement in the current event deserves consideration as well.

Gastrointestinal anthrax in human patients is, as noted by Mod LL in 20210624.8471650, rather unlikely since no deaths have been reported. Laboratory-based exclusion is, however, recommended.

Results of the undertaken epidemiological and laboratory investigations of the event, in humans and camels, are requested.

Kahlon SS, Peters CJ, Leduc J, et al. Severe Rift Valley fever may present with a characteristic clinical syndrome. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2010 Mar;82(3):371-5. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.2010.09-0669. PMID: 20207858; PMCID: PMC2829894;
– Mod.AS

Maps of Ethiopia: and

See Also
Undiagnosed illness – Ethiopia, Somalia: camel meat 20210624.8471650

Undiagnosed illness, camel – Kenya (02): (MB) RFI 20200613.7465909
Undiagnosed illness, camel – Kenya: (MB) RFI 20200610.7453516
Undiagnosed deaths, camel – Kenya: (MD) RFI 20200606.7435004

Unexplained deaths, camel – Kenya (02): (BA) enterotoxemia susp, RFI 20190716.6567922
Unexplained deaths, camel – Kenya: (TU) RFI 20190401.6398492
MERS-CoV (35): Kenya, animal reservoir, camel, OIE 20190313.6365915
MERS-CoV (02): Kenya, animal reservoir, camel, serosurveillance, genotyping 20190105.6240916

Rift Valley fever – Kenya (03): (WJ) camel, human, OIE 20180609.5847976

Foodborne illness – Kenya (02) (02): (BA) camel meat, fatal, RFI 20161101.4598092
Foodborne illness – Kenya: (BA) camel meat, fatal, RFI 20161028.4589974
Undiagnosed deaths, camels – Kenya: (MB) RFI 20160128.3973561

MERS-CoV (143): Kenya, animal reservoir, camel, serosurveillance 20151017.3722887

MERS-CoV – Eastern Mediterranean (10): camel, Sudan, Ethiopia 20140228.2307254
MERS-CoV – Eastern Mediterranean (68): Saudi Arabia, Kenya, animal res, camel 20140524.2496602

Undiagnosed disease, camel – Kenya: RFI 20110222.0586

Undiagnosed camel disease – Ethiopia: RFI 20060919.2674

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Additional Reference:

Obama Admin Started Biosafety Lab (BSL-3) Project for Ethiopia; Ft. Detrick Lab Tech Shooter probably Ethiopian; WHO Chief Ethiopian; Carter Center Election Monitor Dead & Conflict Continues in Ethiopia

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