Deadly ‘nosebleed’ virus that killed at least three people is ‘rat fever’

Three people who mysteriously passed away after head-scratching nosebleeds are now thought to have died from ‘rat fever’.

Medics in Tanzania were left puzzled after the victims tested negative for known diseases such as Ebola and Marburg.

Fears about a new viral haemorrhagic condition had been growing but health officials in the East African country have now stated that the people died from a bacterial disease called leptospirosis.

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The condition can often lead to death and before that can cause liver failure, meningitis and kidney damage. People who get the nasty illness can have symptoms like nosebleeds, tiredness and headaches.

Known to locals as rat or field fever, its wide span of possible symptoms means it often gets mistaken for other illnesses – the nosebleeds the three victims suffered from are uncommon.

In the UK, the deadly condition is called Weil's disease.

The first of the three victims in Tanzania arrived in hospital earlier this month, followed shortly by a second just a few days later.

In an effort to limit any further spread and to gather information on what the disease could be, Tanzania’s health ministry sent officials to the Lindi region to isolate people and carry out contact tracing.

While often known as rat fever, the disease can also spread between cows, pigs and mice and all animals carrying it can contaminate water with their urine.

Tanzania’s health minister, Ummy Mwalimu, said around 20 people have been affected by the outbreak, with two still in hospital.

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Despite the deaths, he said the diagnosis is a “good thing” because rat fever is a treatable and a preventable illness.

In Britain, it is very unlikely that you'll catch the disease from other people, bites or pets.

News of the outbreak comes after two people died in the African country of Ghana from the Marburg virus, which is similar to Ebola and carries a death rate as high as 88%.

Fears had risen that there had been a wider spread, however, officials from the country have said that 98% of suspected contacts are now in isolation.

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