by Gopalan on  September 2, 2007 at 12:48 PM Tropical Disease News
New Type of Viral Fever Kills Over a Hundred People in Congo
The war-torn central African state of Democratic Republic of Congo is now encountering a major crisis on the health front.

A major fever epidemic is raging across the country and already over a hundred persons have died.

Many of the victims are people who have been in contact with the deceased, including medical staff, and who lack equipment to deal with the illness, it is reported.

The latest victim was a nurse who was attending on infected patients.

Health officials say the medical staff had no masks and this put them at risk.

Speaking from Kananga, the capital of West Kasai region, Dr Jean-Constantin Kanow said the illness had first started three months ago, when chickens and pigs started dying - but now people were also affected.

The epidemic was affecting four villages: Kampungu, Makonono, Kaluamba and Mombo.

Traditionally, people in DR Congo wash dead bodies by hand.

The doctor said that such funeral rites seemed to facilitate the transmission of the disease.

He said many people who attended the recent funeral of a local chief had also died of fever and dehydration.

The World Health Organisation has sent a team to take blood samples for analysis at laboratories specialising in haemorrhagic fever. DR Congo's last major Ebola outbreak killed more than 200 people in 1995 in Kikwit, about 400km (249 miles) west of the current outbreak.

But health officials say it is too early to determine if this new epidemic outbreak is indeed a haemorrhagic fever.

Viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHFs) refer to a group of illnesses that are caused by several distinct families of viruses. In general, the term "viral hemorrhagic fever" is used to describe a severe multisystem syndrome (multi-system in that multiple organ systems in the body are affected). Characteristically, the overall vascular system is damaged, and the body's ability to regulate itself is impaired. These symptoms are often accompanied by hemorrhage (bleeding); however, the bleeding is itself rarely life-threatening. While some types of hemorrhagic fever viruses can cause relatively mild illnesses, many of these viruses cause severe, life-threatening disease.

Source: Medindia

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