MSF responds to malaria emergency in DRC

A malaria outbreak in Lulingu, Democratic Republic of Congo has infected more than 1,000 people since May 4, prompting an emergency response from Médecins Sans Frontières, the organization reported on Monday.

The outbreak, which is occurring in DRC's South Kivu province, was originally thought to be an outbreak of meningitis. Patients flooded health facilities in Lulingu and Tchonka with high fevers and convulsions. The emergency team from MSF arrived and determined the patients were suffering from malaria.

The emergency six-member medical team, along with eleven Congolese staff members and four international staff members, worked in Lulingu's General Reference Hospital to support malaria diagnosis and treatment in the maternity and pediatric wards. The activities were later expanded to include Tchonka. More than 2,500 people were treated in total since the beginning of May.

The teams also provided local communities with information about protection from malaria and the importance of seeking medical help at the first sign of symptoms.

"Early detection is vital to shorten the time of recovery (usually one to two weeks)," Liliana Palacios, a DRC project manager for MSF, said. "But prevention and information (to stress the importance of a correct use of mosquito nets, for example) is also indispensable in stopping the spread of the disease."

The MSF teams anticipate the emergency malaria response will last until the end of August. In 2012, MSF teams treated more than 434,000 people for malaria.