Plague Outbreak in Eastern Congo

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I'm Gwen Outen the VOA Special English Health Report.

Plague is an ancient disease that can be treated now with
antibacterial medicines. In fact, the World Health Organization says
people are usually cured if treated quickly.

The W.H.O. had reports of more than two thousand cases of plague
in nine countries in two thousand three. Almost all were in Africa.
One hundred eighty-two people died.

Recently, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there have been
cases of a rare form of plague. Reports say at least sixty-one
workers at a diamond mine in northeastern Congo have died of
pneumonic plague. Other cases have been found in the area around the

The total number of cases is not known, but an outbreak of this
size is described as unusual. It began in December. Officials say it
took about two months to identify the disease.

The mine employed seven thousand people in Zobia, in Oriental
province. Miners left the town and fled into the forest. Medical
teams have gone to look for victims of the outbreak.

There are three forms of plague. Bubonic plague is the most
common. Bubonic plague killed millions of Europeans in the Middle
Ages. It is passed between animals and people by the bite of
infected fleas or by handling an infected animal. It causes high
body temperature and painful swelling of the lymph glands.

Septicemic plague is when the infection spreads directly through
the blood system.

Pneumonic plague is the least common but most aggressive form. It
mainly attacks the lungs. It can be spread by flea bites. But it can
also spread through the air through such things as coughing or

Signs such as high temperature, chills, pain, weakness and
vomiting usually appear within a week. Without treatment, death can
happen quickly.

Alain Decoux is head of operations in the D.R.C. for the
international aid group Doctors Without Borders. He says there is a
high level of insecurity around Zobia because it is a diamond
producing area. He says recent clashes in the area caused the
population to flee widely.

Just last week, attackers killed nine United Nations peacekeepers
from Bangladesh in Ituri province in eastern Congo. Congo had war
from nineteen ninety-eight to two thousand two. Even now the
International Rescue Committee says one thousand people a day die
from hunger and disease.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia
Kirk. I'm Gwen Outen.