Mystery deadly illness in central DR Congo prompts UN to send in health experts

31 August 2007

United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) experts have arrived in the centre of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where there has been an outbreak of an unknown but highly deadly illness that is proving to be particularly harmful for young children.

WHO said in a statement today that the exact number of cases and deaths is unknown, but the illness – which so far has no known cause – has a high mortality rate. Most sufferers experience fever, headaches, diarrhoea, vomiting and colicky abdominal pain, and more than 50 per cent of cases involve children under the age of 10.

A joint investigation team from WHO, the DRC’s provincial and national health ministries and the National Institute of Biological Research (known by its French acronym INRB) has reached the source of the outbreak, in Kasai Occidental province, and taken clinical samples for laboratory testing.

WHO said it was also mobilizing support to mount an epidemiological investigation and to provide logistics, such as water, sanitation and other supplies, should they be required in any emergency response.

National health authorities in the DRC have already begun implementing measures to improve hygiene, strengthen infection controls, ensure the safety of the water supply and promote safe burial practices to try to limit the outbreak.


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