Flu Epidemic Kills 2,000 in Congo
Jan. 21, 2003
KINSHASA, Congo (AP) _ A flu epidemic has killed more than 2,000 people in a far northern province of war-divided Congo, the country's health minister said Tuesday, warning the outbreak could claim many more victims among the country's malnourished population.
``Let it be known that we're faced with a virulent illness that could afflict a huge area,'' Health Minister Mashako Mamba said in an interview Tuesday. ``That is to say: our whole country or lots of countries on the continent.''
At least 2,000 of the 100,000 infected residents of Congo's northern Equator province have died during the four-month epidemic, Mamba said.
The epidemic has reached the capital, Kinshasa, as well, with about a half-million out of its estimated 6 million residents infected, Mamba said. No deaths have yet been reported in Kinshasa.
The disease likely spread into Congo in October from neighboring Central African Republic, Mamba said. It was not immediately clear what strain of flu was involved.
Malnutrition and provincial health care systems ruined by decades of neglect and civil strife have left Congolese in the distant bush weakened and vulnerable to a range of illnesses.
In one Equatorial town, Bosobolo, Mamba said studies indicated that 60 percent to 80 percent of all inhabitants suffer from malnutrition.
Congo has been ravaged by four years of war that has claimed about 2.5 million lives _ most from hunger and disease _ and has split the vast central African country between rebels and the government.
Warring parties in December negotiated to bring peace to the country and move it toward democracy, but little progress has been made so far in implementing it.