Bubonic plague: an expert on how the Black Death ‘killed millions’
A total of 15 cases have been reported in Ituri province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which also battled an Ebola outbreak in recent years, between April 23 and May 8. Dr Louis Tshulo, director of the Ituri Provincial Health Department (DPS), said: “The victims show symptoms of headache, fever, cough and vomiting of blood.
“The report mentions 15 cases including 11 deaths to date. The first case was that of a lady who died in the Fataki health zone in the Bukachele health zone.
“A week later, on April 30, a 30-year-old man also died after showing the same symptoms.
“On May 8, another man died.”
Health workers in Congo in February, where cases of plague were identified
Fleas are the most common vector of bubonic plague
Mr. Tshulo added: “We were alerted when there were already five deaths in this health zone in the same family.
“Then there were two people who had gone to the burial place in Bukachele who, on their return, fell ill and died in Bule.
Response teams from Fataki continue to investigate and on May 19 discovered four more deaths, two in Bukachele and two in Bule, including a traditional medicine practitioner who had treated others who had fallen ill.
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Health workers at the height of the Ebola epidemic in Congo
Four other people with similar symptoms were currently being treated at health facilities, including two in Bule and two more in Bukachele, Tshulo said.
People living in Fataki and Djugu health zone are urged to wear masks, observe social distancing, avoid handling corpses and be vigilant in the face of suspected cases.
They are also advised not to eat rat meat.
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Samples taken from suspected plague cases before being analyzed
Health workers take samples from dead rat
Cases of bubonic plague have been reported in Ituri since last year with 461 cases, including 31 deaths in eight health zones: Logo, Linga, Biringi, Kambala, Rethy, Rimba, Aru and Aungba.
Plague is an infectious disease caused by Yersinia pestisbacterium.
It is found in animals around the world, most commonly rats but other rodents like ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, rabbits and groundhogs in China. Fleas are generally used as a vector for plague.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo was ravaged by Ebola and now faces cases of bubonic plague
People can also be infected through direct contact with an infected animal, by inhalation and in cases of pulmonary plague, person to person.
Yersinia pestis can be treated with antibiotics if prescribed early enough.
There are three forms of human plague; bubonic, septicaemic and pneumonic.
Last year, the Chinese city of Bayan in Inner Mongolia received a level three warning for controlling the outbreak, the second lowest in a four-level system, after a farmer contracted the disease.
A plague in London, where the black plague was raging in 1665
Speaking at the time, Sergei Diorditsu, a representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Mongolia, said: “There are natural foci of plague in Mongolia and the disease is spread by Mongolian marmots.
“The problem is that the local inhabitants who, despite all the bans and recommendations of the local authorities, continue to hunt and eat them, because it is a local delicacy.”
It is believed that the bubonic plague wiped out 75 and 200 million people in the Middle Ages, when it was known as the Black Death.
He returned periodically over the centuries to come, most notably in 1665, when chronicler Samuel Pepys chronicled the devastating impact he had had on London in 1665.