Iraqi media says ISIS militants have contracted Ebola

Iraqi media says ISIS militants have contracted Ebola


Fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State group parade in Raqqa, Syria.
Reports that Islamic State militants in Mosul have contracted Ebola swirled though Iraqi media sources on Wednesday. World Health Organization officials said they haven’t confirmed the cases, but the organization has reached out to offer assistance.Three outlets reported that Ebola showed up at a hospital in Mosul, a city 250 miles north of Baghdad that’s been under ISIS control since June 2014. The reports, however, have perpetuated mostly in pro-government and Kurdish media.

“We have no official notification from [the Iraqi government] that it is Ebola,”“We have no official notification from [the Iraqi government] that it is Ebola,” Christy Feig, WHO’s director of communications told Mashable.Feig added that WHO is in the process of reaching out to government officials in Iraq to see if they need help investigating the cases, a task that could be a challenge, given the restrictions that would come with operating in ISIS-controlled territory.

It’s unclear if any disease experts or doctors in Mosul are even able to test for the Ebola virus. A Kurdish official, who was convinced the cases are Ebola, told the Kurdish media outlet Xendan that the militants’ symptoms were similar to those of the Ebola virus.

However, Ebola symptoms — nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding and bruising — are also similar to those associated with a number of other diseases, including malaria, Lassa fever, yellow fever viruses and the Marburg virus. Also, most confirmed Ebola cases in this recent outbreak have originated in West Africa.

Citing an unnamed source in a Mosul hospital, Iraq’s official pro-government newspaper, al Sabaah, said the disease arrived in Mosul from “terrorists” who came “from several countries” and Africa.

While ISIS has recruited foreign fighters, very few of them — if any at all — are believed to have traveled from West Africa.

The majority of the Islamic State’s African fighters came from Tunisia, according to a Washington Post report. Others came from Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan and Somalia — none of which reported any Ebola cases in 2014.

If the cases in Mosul turn out to be Ebola — a scenario that, at this point, seems highly unlikely — it would mark the first time the virus had been detected in an area controlled by ISIS, a group that doesn’t embrace science and modern medicine.

Over the past few weeks, militants affiliated with ISIS have executed more than a dozen doctorsin Mosul, according to Benjamin T. Decker, an intelligence analyst with the Levantine Group, a Middle East-based geopolitical risk and research consultancy.

“U.N. workers have thus far been prohibited from entering ISIS-controlled territory in both Iraq and Syria,” Decker, who specializes in Iraq, told Mashable.

“In this context,” he said, “the lack of medical infrastructure, supplies and practitioners in the city suggests that the outbreak could quickly lead to further infection of both ISIS fighters and residents of Mosul.”

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