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Rabies Outbreak in DR Congo

Overview of the rabies outbreak

At the end of 2009, three DRC provinces (Kinshasa, Eastern Kasai and Bandundu) were hit by an outbreak of rabies. At this time, more than 70 cases have been registered and all of these cases resulted in death (lethality rate: 100%). Rabies is a viral neuro-invasive disease that causes acute encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). It is most commonly transmitted to humans by a bite from an infected animal. Rabies is almost invariably fatal if post-exposure prophylaxis is not administered prior to the onset of severe symptoms. Vaccination against rabies before exposure is available for people, such as laboratory workers, who may be at increased risk for exposure to the rabies virus.

CDC’s Support in the Response to the Rabies Outbreak in DRC

In February 2010, CDC/DRC organized a twelve-day training on the diagnosis and epidemiological monitoring of rabies. Attendees included physicians, veterinarians, biologists and lab technicians. This training was possible with technical support from the CDC’s Rabies program with the collaboration of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID). In DRC, before this training, rabies could only be diagnosed post-mortem in the animal or the victim. Now, to confirm the diagnosis, DRC is using the Immunohistochemical Test (dRIT), a rapid and direct test developed by CDC. This test has the advantages of requiring only one optical microscope and generating results in about 52 minutes. To organize the response to rabies, a task force was created that provides information to the population and, in order to ensure better early care, promotes the services offered in various rabies centers.

Next steps

Additional training is planned for next year and will be extended to other DRC provinces.  Immunization of all personnel performing rabies-related diagnostic work is required.