Caterpillar hunters die from mystery disease in Congo

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More than 100 people have died of a mystery disease in south-west Congo, authorities said on Thursday, adding that the victims include people who had been foraging for caterpillars.

“We have seen a wave of deaths among people in the same category, and in three weeks we have counted more than 100 deaths,” Gauthier Kibangu, health minister in Kwango province, said.

He said symptoms include fever, headaches, vomiting and diarrhoea, adding that all the people who have died seem to have been people who foraged for edible caterpillars in the bush.

“Samples have been sent to laboratories in the capital Kinshasa for analysis. Separately, but in the same region, over 200 people have been affected by Konzo disease in the past three months,’’ Kibangu said.

Konzo is a neurological disease, unique to parts of Africa, which causes paralysis of the legs and is irreversible.

Many associate its sudden onset with witchcraft, but it is believed to stem from a compound in cassava, a staple food.

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