Plague – Congo The Democratic Republic Of The

At least 44 children have died in the Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following an outbreak of bubonic plague. The recent resurgence affecting children is concerning the health authorities.

Nearly 578 cases and 44 deaths have been recorded in Ituri province. Symptoms of this disease include swollen lymph nodes in the groin, armpits, or neck, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, and muscle pain.

According to the officials, the ongoing outbreak differs from previous ones as the cases of the highly infectious bubonic and pneumonic plague, which is transmitted from person to person by air, have been recorded in areas free from previous outbreaks.

Poor sanitation and hygiene practices attract rats carrying fleas which in turn infect people and their homes. This disease has been reported closely on the border with South Sudan and Uganda. Frequent displacement of populations and insecurity in the region create a considerable risk of cross-border transmission.

Photo: Yersinia pestis, Direct Fluorescent Antibody Stain

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Symptoms include fever, weakness and headache. Usually this begins one to seven days after exposure. In the bubonic form there is also swelling of lymph nodes, while in the septicemic form tissues may turn black and die, and in the pneumonic form shortness of breath, cough and chest pain may occur.

Bubonic and septicemic plague are generally spread by flea bites or handling an infected animal. The pneumonic form is generally spread between people through the air via infectious droplets.

Plague has historically occurred in large outbreaks, with the best known being the Black Death in the 14th century which resulted in greater than 50 million dead.

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