Emergencies preparedness, response

Unknown illness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

31 August 2007

An outbreak of an unknown illness with a high mortality has been reported from the province of Kasai Occidental, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The exact number of cases and deaths is unknown at this time. The clinical features in the majority of cases include fever, headache, diarrhoea or colicky abdominal pain, and vomiting. Over 50% of cases have been in children under 10 years of age.

An investigation team from the Provincial and National Health Ministries, the Institut National de Recherches Biologiques (INRB) and WHO is in the field, and has taken clinical samples for laboratory testing. WHO is mobilizing support for the epidemiological investigation and logistics, including supplies, and water and sanitation and technical partners in the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) have offered to provide support to the MoH if required.

At the present time, the etiological agent is unknown but the national health authorities have taken a precautionary approach and are implementing measures to improve hygiene, ensure the safety of the water supply, promote safe burial practices and strengthen infection control.