Since the beginning of 2020 to date, Ituri Province, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has reported a total of 75 cases and 17 deaths (CFR 22.7%) in 5 health zones, namely Aungba, Linga, Rethy, Aru and Kambala, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization.

Bipolar staining of a plague smear prepared from lymph aspirated from an adenopathic lymph node, or bubo, of a plague patient./CDC

In just the period of June 11 to July 15, a total of 45 cases with 9 deaths (CFR 20%) were reported in Rethy health zone.

In all of last year, a total of 48 cases of bubonic plague including eight deaths have been reported in the country.

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis. It is found in animals throughout the world, most commonly rats but other rodents like ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, rabbits and voles. Fleas typically serve as the vector of plague.

People can also get infected through direct contact with an infected animal, through inhalation and in the case of pneumonic plague, person to person.

Yersinia pestis is treatable with antibiotics if started early enough.

There are three forms of human plague; bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic.

Bubonic plague is the most common form. In this form, the bacteria enter the body through the bite of an infected flea or rodent. Here the bacteria infect the lymphatic system. After a few days to week, the person will experience fever, chills, weakness, and swollen lymph glands. These are called buboes.

Untreated bubonic plague is fatal about half the time.

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