Emergencies preparedness, response

Plague in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

18 February 2005

As of 15 February 2005, WHO has received reports of 61 deaths of pneumonic plague in Bas-Uele district, Oriental province in the northern part of the country (see map below). The total number of cases is still not known. Preliminary results from rapid diagnostic tests in the area confirm pneumonic plague, and the cases had clinical features compatible with this disease. Forty samples have been taken and will be tested by culture and serology at the Institut de la Recherche Biomedicale, Kinshasa. No cases of bubonic plague have been reported to date.

The cases have occurred in workers in a diamond mine in Zobia where c. 7000 people work. The mine was re-opened on 16 December 2004 and the first case occurred on 20 December.

A team from Médecins sans Frontières (Belgium and Switzerland), Medair, WHO and Ministry of Health have been in the area to assess the situation. An additional multi-disciplinary team will be leaving for the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 19 February. If humanitarian access is possible given the security concerns in the area, the team will go to the affected area to provide technical support in case management and treatment of cases, intensive surveillance and tracing of possible contacts and further epidemiological investigations.

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