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Deadly Naga ‘mystery disease’ diagnosed as measles

A child shows symptoms of the mysterious illness that has killed dozens of people in the Naga Self-Administered Zone in northern Burma. (Photo: Thein Zaw / DVB)

Burmese government health officials have confirmed that the so-called “mystery disease” that claimed around 40 lives in the Naga Self-Administrated Zone is actually an outbreak of measles.

Dr Than Tun Aung, director of epidemiology at the Public Health Department, said, “After hearing news about the outbreak on 29 July, we authorised the testing of blood and urine samples of the patients. We now have the results – it is a measles virus.”

He said the Department of Health as well as the Burmese army are sending specialist doctors and drugs to the areas where the outbreak occurred, and that a vaccination programme is currently underway.

According to Dr Than Tun Aung, a similar outbreak of measles was reported in the area about 20 years ago.

He said the vaccination programme is being undertaken via teams of fully equipped doctors sent in by the government and the Burmese armed forces.

At least 39 people – including 25 in Lahe Township and 13 in Namyun Township – have been confirmed dead since the disease broke out in the Naga region at the beginning of June.

According to Yi Htin, an executive official in the Naga regional government, at least 160 people have been infected up until 27 July. He said that number is likely to increase.