By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

In an update on the plague cluster in Ituri Province in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), UN officials report a total of 31 cases and eight deaths since the beginning of the year.

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

The first five cases were reported during week 10 in the Aungba health zone, which is in an endemic area. Two other cases were reported during week 13 (Aru health zone) and 14 (Aungba health zone). The latest cluster of cases was reported between week 39 (7 cases and 3 deaths) and 40 (14 cases) were reported from Aru health zone in Ituri Province.

Related: Congo, Madagascar top countries reporting most plague 2000-2009, US reports 57 cases

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.

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