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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Rodents spread rabies in central Somalia
Large rodents believed to be suffering from rabies are reported to be terrorising people in central Somalia.

Seven people have so far died after being bitten by the creatures around the town of Harardhere, according to a local official.

And the local health authorities have complained that the hospital has no drugs to treat rabies, and even if they had, no-one could afford them.

District Commissioner Mohamed Sheikh Ahmed said that the last victims of the rodent assault were two men attacked on Wednesday who are now being treated in hospital.

According to local residents the attacks by the rodents, which look like very large rats, were first noticed some 40 days ago when an 80 years old woman was attacked and subsequently died

Since then another 10 people have been attacked - some have been evacuated to Mogadishu for treatment.

Taste

Locals say those especially at risk are those who fall asleep outside at night - such as on house verandas.

The rodents normally attack chicken, small cats and rabbits.

It is not unusual in Somalia for rabid dogs to attack people and police have engaged in culls from time to time, but this is the first time these large rodents have attacked humans in the area.

Central and southern Somalia has been the main battleground for inter-clan wars that have divided the country so much in the past 10 years.

And some people believe that with so many dead bodies around, wild dogs and rodents may have grown to like the taste of human flesh.

See also:

23 Aug 01 | Africa
UN warns of hunger in Somalia
29 Aug 00 | Africa
Somalia's new civilian leader
31 Jul 01 | Africa
Khat shortage hits Somalia
30 Jul 01 | Africa
Kenya bans trading with Somalia
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