(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Nine die, dozens infected by suspected haemorrhagic fever

An outbreak of a suspected haemorrhagic fever has killed nine people and infected 92 more in Kasai Occidental, according to medical personnel.

The outbreak occurred in the health zone of Mweka, where a confirmed outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever killed several villagers in 2007.

"There are signs that could be associated with haemorrhagic fever but we have to wait for laboratory results to confirm this because there is also a gastro-enteritis outbreak in the area,” Edmond Mulamba, the Kasai Occidental provincial health inspector, told IRIN.

He said those infected had presented symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle pains and eventually developed vomiting and diarrhoea.

François Dumont, an official of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF-Belgium), said the cause of death would be confirmed once the results of blood and stool samples sent to laboratories in Kinshasa, Gabon and South Africa had been received.

Mulamba said the patients were from villages around Kampungu area – where a serious outbreak of the Ebola virus was reported in 2007. During that outbreak, from September to October 2007, MSF emergency medical teams attended to 46 patients.

The DRC office of the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that investigations had shown the first case in the latest outbreak was a premature baby. The 18-year-old mother, grandparents and others who attended the funeral died after experiencing headaches, fever, muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Dumont said a five-member team from MSF's Congo Emergency Team, based in Kinshasa, had been deployed to Kasai Occidental to respond to the outbreak. The team, comprising a doctor, nurse, water and sanitation specialist, logistician and health promoter, is to assess the situation in the region.

"The team has special protection equipment needed for this type of outbreak and they will also build an isolation ward for potential patients," Dumont said.

He said MSF was also sending a team of four haemorrhagic fever specialists to the area.

Haemorrhagic fevers of the Ebola or Marburg type are contagious viral diseases without a cure. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pains, and later vomiting and diarrhoea. In the course of the disease, patients start bleeding.

Health officials say it is crucial to contain the disease as quickly as possible and prevent its spread as, depending on the strain of the virus, up to 90 percent of those infected die.

In 2007, 264 people were affected and 187 died of haemorrhagic fever in Kampungu village.


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