WHO: Cholera kills 254 in DRC

2011-07-20 13:16

Kinshasa - A cholera outbreak has killed more than 250 people across four provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo since March, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday.

"On Monday evening the number of cases stood at 3 729, with 254 deaths," said Dr Ayigan Kossi from the WHO in Kinshasa.

The epidemic began in the northeast of the country before spreading westwards, with the first cases reported in Kinshasa province last month.

The northeast's Oriental province has seen the largest numbers of deaths (97) followed by Bandundu (77) and Equateur (72).

"It is too early to say yet if the epidemic has peaked in Equateur," said Felix Tran from Doctors without Borders.

Nine people have died in Kinshasa province to date.

Various measures have been taken to stem the outbreak, such as sterilising boats at the capital's port, but WHO spokesman Eugene Kabambi said they did not seem to be effective.

Cholera is a highly contagious intestinal infection which can kill if not treated properly.

In Bololo in Bandundu province, health workers' lack of knowledge about the disease and contact with victims' bodies has fuelled its spread, Tran said.

The outbreak comes on top of a measles epidemic in several provinces of the vast country, where the health infrastructure has been devastated by decades of neglect and conflict.