Ongoing plague outbreak reported in Congo

Aug 2, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – A disease suspected to be plague has infected 1,042 people and killed 58 in a northeastern district of the Congo so far this year, according to a United Nations agency.

The cases were reported Jul 29 by the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The agency said the figures came from Congolese and World Health Organization (WHO) officials who visited the Ituri district from July 18 to 26.

Ituri is the Congolese area hardest hit by plague because of "incessant population displacements caused by the continued fighting between rebel groups," said Dr. Vital Mondonge Makuma, an epidemiologist in the Ministry of Health, as quoted in the report.

According to the story, Dr. Jean-Marie Yameogo, a WHO official in Kinshasa, said a lack of laboratory facilities in Ituri has made it impossible to confirm the diagnosis of plague in the suspected cases. But he said Ituri has been a "hot spot" for the plague since 1928.

The officials who visited Ituri said 90% of the cases were suspected to be bubonic plague, 7% pulmonary plague, and 3% a variant that affects the blood, according to the IRIN report.

Another WHO official, Dr. Tarcis Elongo, said high humidity during the Congo's rainy season forces people to store their food indoors, which attracts rats and fleas that carry plague.

IRIN says its reports do not necessarily reflect the views of the UN or its agencies.

See also:

CIDRAP overview of plague

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