26 November 2002

Congo-Kinshasa: Haemorrhagic Fever Outbreak in Province Orientale

Kinshasa — The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has issued an alert regarding an outbreak of haemorrhagic fever that has so far killed eight people in Orientale Province, a region plagued by fighting among various rebel groups and ethnic factions.

According to DRC Health Minister Dr Mashako Mamba, who is also the coordinator of the country's epidemiological alert system, the eight deaths were caused by a type of haemorrhagic fever not yet identified due to armed hostilities throughout the region. "We are calling upon all belligerents to allow medical emergency teams full access to work under peaceful conditions," Mashako said.

Mashako reported that so far, six people had died in Watsa (550 km northeast of Kisangani), one died in Isiro (370 km northeast of Kisangani) and another in Ango (481 km north of Kisangani).

NGOs and other independent health organisations have not yet been able to confirm the outbreak. The number of people thus far infected also remains unknown.

"The epidemiological alert system functions independent of the war situation, because we still receive reliable information by radio from rebel-controlled territory," Mashako said. "Given the conditions in the region, it is difficult to organise the necessary response and to establish the chain of people who came into contact with the deceased."

All those who have died had the same symptoms before dying: blood in their eyes and nose, as well as in their urine and stools.

A crisis committee has been organised to oversee the emergency.

A similar epidemic previously affected Watsa in 1999. It began in January 1999, but did not come to the attention of international health organisations until April.

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