Emergencies preparedness, response

1999 - Suspected viral haemorrhagic fever in Democratic Republic of Congo - Update 4

12 May 1999

Disease Outbreak Reported

As of 10 May, 90 suspected cases had been reported, of which 5 are in hospital and 7 have recovered. The total number of deaths is currently unknown. None of the patients in the isolation unit have shown clinical features typical of viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF).

The outbreak has featured unusual deaths among young men, the majority of whom were involved in mining activities in Durba. There have also been reports from several families of chains of transmission, including a significant number of deaths. To date, only one case of Marburg virus infection has been confirmed by laboratory testing and results from contacts tested so far have been negative for VHF. On 10 May, a survivor of a similar outbreak which took place in 1994 was confirmed positive for IgG against Marburg virus by the National Institute for Virology (South Africa).

The investigation is being coordinated by a special committee set up by the local authorities, including experts from the Ministry of Health, WHO, Médecins sans frontières and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Control efforts are now focusing on finding active and convalescent cases to obtain laboratory confirmation of the diagnosis of VHF, and tracking contacts. Investigations will also aim to determine the original source of the outbreak and risk factors, to follow up on reports of deaths from VHF and to document secondary transmission.

An ecological team from the National Institute for Virology is expected to arrive in the area shortly to carry out a detailed study of possible animal sources.

Please see previous reports about this outbreak: 10 May 19996 May 1999; 5 May 1999; 30 April 1999.