A plague outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has left 31 people dead over a period of three months, the health officials have revealed.
Authorities have been able to identify hundreds of cases of the plague in the northeastern province of Ituri. According to Patrick Karamura, the health minister for the region, the cases of the plague are above 500.
“We have more than 520 cases [of the plague] … of which more than 31 have been fatal,” Karamura disclosed to news sources on Friday, 19 February 2021.
In addition, he explained that five of the cases are pneumonic plague, two are the septicaemic plague, and the rest are the bubonic form of the disease.
Bubonic plague is one of three types of plague caused by the plague bacterium (Yersinia pestis). It causes flu-like symptoms within one to seven days of exposure to it. These symptoms include fever, shivering, dry cough, headaches, vomiting, loss of appetite, nausea and so on. It also causes swollen and painful lymph nodes in the area where the bacteria entered the skin.
An epidemiologist working with an NGO EcoHealth Alliance, Anne Laudisoit, said that the cases started appearing between 15 November and 13 December 2020. Patients are between the age of three months and 73 years.
The plague has existed in the Ituri Province since 1926 when it was first discovered and its bacterium can be found in animals like rats, ground squirrels and prairie dogs. Usually, fleas serve as vectors for the bacterium. Infections can spread from animal to people and inhalation. Only the pneumonic plague has been confirmed to spread from person to person.
Efforts to treat the plague with antibiotics have been reported to be highly successful if the infection is caught in its early stages.
If you are confused about what to do during a plague outbreak and other details, check out this extensive FAQ article by the World Health Organzation (WHO).