Influenza in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
12 February 2003
Disease Outbreak Reported
In early January 2003, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo reported an outbreak of acute respiratory syndrome in Kinshasa. Serum and nasopharyngeal samples from 5 districts from Kinshasa were tested by Institut Pasteur, Paris. Evidence from 16 of the 22 serum samples strongly suggests influenza virus A(H3N2) to be involved in the current outbreak. This virus has been circulating worldwide for several years. Influenza vaccine containing the WHO recommended vaccine strains protect against this influenza virus. Virus isolation and characterization are currently underway.
The Ministry of Health conducted epidemiological studies from December 2002 to mid-January 2003 in health zones and medical institutions in Kinshasa. Fourteen medical institutions reported 3 963 influenza cases including 126 deaths (case-fatality rate of 3.2%) and 33 health zones reported 27 211 cases including 170 deaths (case-fatality rate of 0.6%). The differences in the case-fatality rates can be explained by differences in health and nutritional status and access to health care services. Children under 5 years of age were the most affected.
The epidemiology of this outbreak is still not completely understood as limited resources have impeded a more thorough investigation. However, Epicentre/Médecins sans Frontières, France have recently initiated more comprehensive data collection and analysis.