14 Jun 2006
An outbreak of pneumonic plague has killed more than 100 people in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The BBC reported that the WHO has set up isolation units to manage the crisis. About 19 cases were reported in war torn Ituri province. Insecurity in the area is hampering efforts by the WHO and MSF (Doctors without borders) to effectively bring the outbreak under control. In February 2005, over 50 miners died from the plague in oriental province of DR Congo.
Pneumonic plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. It occurs when Y. pestis infects the lungs. It can spread from human to human through the air, usually from respiratory droplets of an infected person. It may also occur when the microbes from untreated persons suffering from bubonic plague or septicemic plague spread to the lungs. Bubonic and septicemic plagues are two other forms of infections caused by Y. pestis. The bacterium is usually found in rodents and their fleas and they serve as the main vehicle of transporting it to humans. Pneumonic plague occurs in many parts of the world. An outbreak in northern India in 2002 led to the loss of some lives.
Symptoms of the disease include, headache, weakness, pneumonia with shortness of breath, chest pain and cough. Without early treatment, patients may die. The disease usually responds well to antibiotics. To reduce the chance of death, the antibiotics must be given within the first 24 hours
Njei Moses Timah