A mystery illness which leaves sufferers vomiting blood before some die within hours has claimed at least 15 people and left dozens needing treatment.
The unidentified bug which is spreading through southern Tanzania’s Mbeya region has resulted in over 50 people being hospitalised.
But the condition, which can also cause nausea, is unlikely to become a widespread outbreak and men appear to be affected worst, according to health officials.
They are also testing local water for potential mercury contamination.
Felista Kisandu, Chief Medical Officer of the rural Chunya District in Mbeya, said specialists have moved into the area and are assessing patients.
“This problem has not been widespread,” she said on Saturday.
“It has happened in just a single administrative ward of Ifumbo where people vomit blood and die when they get to the hospital late.
“The cause of their illness has not been identified yet, but Tanzania’s Health Ministry has ruled out an outbreak.”
She went on to say: “Initial clinical examinations revealed the patients, mostly men, suffered from stomach ulcers and liver disease.
“We have advised them to avoid drinking illicit brew, smoking cigarettes and other hard drinks.”
However, Dr Kisandu has since been suspended for her comments because they were deemed to cause “unnecessary panic”.
Health minister Dorothy Gwajika said: “For creating unnecessary panic among residents, I order Dr Felista Kisandu’s employer to suspend her in order to pave way for investigations by the Medical Council and submit the report to me within ten days.”
The minister urged locals to remain calm and said further updates would be coming shortly.
Similar symptoms struck the region in 2018, with patients suffering high fever, nausea and vomiting blood, Government officials said.