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Western province hit by Konzo disease

Ministry of health has said there is need to raise awareness on Konzo disease which has attacked 25 people in western province. THE Ministry of Health (MoH) says Western province has recorded 25 cases of Konzo disease.

MoH spokesperson Reuben Kamoto Mbewe has confirmed the development in a press statement and made available to the Lusaka Star this morning.

Dr. Mbewe revealed that the disease is characterized by weakness in the lower limbs and pelvic pain.

He further added that with time, the affected individuals adopt stiffness in the lower limbs and appear to be walking on tip-toe, the condition is also called Spastic Paraparesi.

The severity of konzo varies from hyperreflexia in the lower limbs to a severely disabled, bedridden patient with spastic paraparesis, associated weakness of the trunk and arms, impaired eye movements, speech and possibly visual impairment.

Dr. Kamoto Mbewe said the disease is mainly caused by eating poorly processed cassava with high levels of cyanide in combination with diets that are poor in proteins and micronutrients.

“Proteins breakdown the cyanide which is a poison found in cassava but the poor diets lack proteins and fail to break down the cyanide leading to neurological damage,” he stated.

Dr. Mbewe also explained that other causes of Konzo include infection with viruses and consumption of particular green peas.

“Anyone can be affected by Konzo but it has broken out in Western province probably because cassava is their staple food,” Dr. Mbewe explained.

The MoH Spokesperson said the disease should be prevented at all costs and this could be done by eating properly processed cassava and a protein rich diet.

“The Ministry of Health wants to involve local traditional and civic leadership to discuss and mobilize efforts for appropriate processing of the cassava,” he revealed.

The Ministry of health has further called on the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock as well as Ministry of Community Development Mother and Child Health to discuss ways in which quality of life and nutrition can be improved in villages.

Dr. Kamoto Mbewe has further urged Zambians to report any suspected cases of Konzo to the nearest health centre adding that such will be referred to the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) for full examination and investigation.

The Ministry of Health Spokesperson also said the Ministry of Health is actively seeking assistance from laboratories and institutions to help in these tests.

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