Nine people have died since November 27 from a disease suspected to be deadly hemorrhagic fever in the Western Kasai province, central Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Whether these deaths were from hemorrhagic fever will be confirmed once the results come through from blood and stool samples that were sent to laboratories in Kinshasa, DRC’s capital, and also in Gabon and South Africa.
The Congolese Ministry of Health is closely following 92 people who have been in contact with the nine patients who have died, or developed similar symptoms.
Each of the patients affected by the disease is from a number of villages located around Kampungu village—the area where last year there was a serious outbreak of the Ebola virus. During that outbreak, in September and October, MSF emergency medical teams cared for 46 Ebola patients.
Currently, the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in Kinshasa are in permanent contact with the Western Kasai health authorities. Hemorrhagic fever—of Ebola or Marburg type—is a contagious viral disease for which there is no cure. Symptoms start with fever, headache, muscle pains, and then people develop vomiting and diarrhea. Later, in the course of the disease, they can start bleeding. 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 with the disease will die.
On December 23, a team of five from MSF's 'Congo Emergency Team' (PUC), permanently based in Kinshasa to respond instantly to any emergencies in the country, headed to Western Kasai. This PUC team—a nurse, a doctor, a water-and-sanitation specialist, a logistician, and a health promoter—began assessing the situation in the region. In addition, they bring special protection equipment needed for this type of outbreak and plan to build an isolation ward for possible patients.
MSF also sent another team of five hemorrhagic fever specialists to the area. An MSF project coordinator, a nurse, a logistician, and a water-and-sanitation specialist will flew from Brussels on December 23. An expert doctor and epidemiologist will join this team of specialists in the coming days.