South Africa finds new strain of deadly disease

Access to third country confirmation is being offered to determine whether SA-Zaire is that variant

South Africa (SA) authorities have announced today that a new serotype of the deadly serotype of Coronavirus has been discovered.

Three cases of severe haemorrhagic fever have been reported in SA after contracting Zaire strain of Coronavirus, two out of whom died of the disease, and the third is in a serious condition.

The Department of Health, Department of Science and Technology and Centers for Disease Control are collaborating with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) of the US to investigate this new strain in SA.

The first case of a Zaire strain coronavirus infection occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in December 2015 and two since then, although both have died.

Coronavirus is found in DRC, Sudan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar. It has been classified as a separate category, Group 3, and therefore is not part of the endemic influenza viruses of most WHO region as in other regions.

The emergence of a newly-discovered serotype of the Zaire strain Coronavirus is a public health issue that requires investigation. A cell line that originated from the DRC is to be sequenced and the SA-Zaire coronavirus specimen obtained from the second incident is being offered to international laboratory access partners for analysis.

SA’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor, Mthandazo Nyathi said in a statement, “we are working closely with NICD to perform research and apply knowledge to this new serotype. Clinical investigation is ongoing and this strain will therefore not affect the routine operations of healthcare facilities in SA.”

In order to determine whether SA-Zaire is that new serotype, international laboratories will be provided with these samples for testing, to be further confirmed and new understanding and/or mitigation measures undertaken.

The findings of the research will be communicated to local communities when that is completed.

The incidence of severe haemorrhagic fever is low, with any laboratory-confirmed infection being a very serious illness, and SA’s version currently being linked to certain hysteresis reported in DRC. The most recent case reported to the Department of Health in SA, is serious, however, there is no evidence of a specific contributory cause at this time.

SA is affected by multiple coronaviruses, which include Meningitis viruses, EVD (Viruses of Rift Valley) and FVDV (Necrotising fasciitis, septicaemia).

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