WHO confirms plague in Zaire

THE SEVERITY of the outbreak of bubonic plague in Zaire has been confirmed by the World Health Organisation, but officials are still waiting for the latest data on deaths and cases for this year, writes Celia Hall.

Dr Yevgeny Tikhomirov, of WHO's Division of Communicable Diseases in Geneva, said medical advances had removed most of the threat of epidemics of the plague. But in countries where the disease was still endemic, 'the risk of human infections is still considerable'.

WHO yesterday released its latest figures, partly in response to reports in the Independent about the Zairean outbreak, where there were 267 cases, including 77 deaths, in 1993. In 1992 in Zaire there were 390 cases and 140 deaths. These figures will almost certainly be an under-estimate.

Worldwide, nine countries reported plague in 1992, with a total of 1,768 cases, including 198 deaths. The countries are Zaire, Madagascar, Brazil, Peru, the US, China, Mongolia, Burma and Vietnam.

The main deterrents are good hygiene and efficient early-warning health systems to prevent spreading.