As many as 10 people have died in western Afghanistan from a rare liver disease believed to be caused by contaminated wheat, officials said on Saturday.
At least 161 people were also hospitalised with Gulran disease although estimates were as high as 200 affected in Herat province, on the Iranian border, said Peter Graaff, resident representative of the UN World Health Organisation.
A toxic weed called charmak, which grows in the area, contains alkalines that affect the liver causing Gulran disease, which is named after the affected district in Herat. Graaff said the disease is not new but rare, and has killed as many as 10 people in recent weeks.
Abdul Hakim Tamana, the director of the Herat public health department, said 112 Gulran cases have been recorded in the province’s clinics, and six people died.
“It has spread all over Gulran district, including several villages,” Tamana said.
It was unclear exactly how the people became ill. The WHO is sending an epidemiologist from Geneva to Afghanistan next week to investigate.
Graaff said charmak may have contaminated wheat grown in the region, flour or other foods.
The Afghan Red Crescent Society received $14,000 (Dh51,520) to purchase new wheat to replace suspect supplies in the district as a precautionary measure, said Graziella Leite Piccolo, a spokeswoman in Kabul for the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Tamana said Gulran disease has affected people in the area over the past 40 years, and several people died in 1999 and 2001 from it. (AP)
Rare liver disease kills 10 in Afghanistan says WHO