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Medics Call for Help Fighting Congo Plague


Aid workers fighting an outbreak of pneumonic plague in the Democratic Republic of Congo are calling for help. French charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said Thursday unless it gets help tracking down new cases, the outbreak could spiral out of control.

The sole aid agency fighting an outbreak of pneumonic plague in the remote lawless corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo sent out an urgent plea for help Thursday.

French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres warned that unless it received help in tracking down new cases and anyone who may have been in contact with them, the outbreak in Congo's Ituri district could spiral out of control.

Twenty-two people have already been killed by the highly contagious airborne disease since the beginning of June. Meanwhile, another 144 cases have been confirmed in Ituri, a district in the remote northeast where militia groups still operate.

The continuing violence in Congo's east just one month ahead of the country's first free elections in over 40 years, means aid workers struggle to provide assistance to thousands displaced by violence there.

Aid workers say this insecurity kills 1,000 people every day in Congo, mostly from war-related hunger and disease, adding to the four million dead since the last war began in 1998.

And MSF fears that unless urgent measures are taken by U.N. and government health officials, the outbreak might spread to areas that doctors will not be able to access due to militia activity.

However, much of the focus in Congo at the moment is on organizing presidential and parliamentary elections, which are due to take place on July 30.

The polls are meant to provide the former Belgian colony with a fresh start after decades of dictatorship, war and chaos.