According to the World Health Organization (WHO), members of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq are reportedly arriving in hospitals suffering with symptoms of the hemorrhagic fever Ebola.
The Daily Mail reported Friday that the health agency is investigating rumors that have been circulating for days that members of the shadowy group are falling ill with the disease in the ISIS-held city of Mosul.
WHO spokesman Christy Feig told the Mail that the agency is attempting to communicate with people inside Mosul in hopes of containing the disease before it begins to spread, if in fact it has somehow traveled from western Africa to the Middle Eastern state.
Feig told Mashable, “We have no official notification from [the Iraqi government] that it is Ebola.”
However, Feig warned, communications with ISIS-held areas is spotty and that investigating the claims could be a complicated and dangerous process, given the extremely violent nature of the extremist group. The Mail claims that ISIS militants have executed 11 doctors just in the past few weeks.
For months, Ebola has ravaged parts of west Africa, killing thousands and infecting thousands more in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Now, an anonymous source claiming to speak from inside the hospital has told Iraqi news agency al Sabbah that foreign fighters coming to join the ISIS movement brought the disease with them.
Feig told Mashable that Ebola’s symptoms — high fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, copious bleeding and bruising — are common to a number of diseases including Lhassa fever, yellow fever, the Marburg virus and malaria.
Also, Mashable’s Brian Ries noted, “While ISIS has recruited foreign fighters, very few of them — if any at all — are believed to have traveled from West Africa.”
Benjamin T. Decker, an intelligence analyst and Iraq specialist with the Levantine Group — a Middle East-based consulting agency — told Mashable, “U.N. workers have thus far been prohibited from entering ISIS-controlled territory in both Iraq and Syria.”
“In this context,” Decker 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.”