KINSHASA, Congo – The World Health Organization confirmed an outbreak of flu in rebel-controlled northern Congo, and the country's health minister said Tuesday more than 500 people have died.
Deaths have been recorded in a number of towns — including Bosobolo, Gbadolite and Gemena — in the north of Equateur province, near the border with Central African Republic, Health Minister Mashako Mamba said.
He said as many as 566 people have died since the outbreak began in October, adding that the figures were "certainly incomplete."
WHO officials in the capital, Kinshasa, confirmed the outbreak but said they could not say how many people had been infected or killed.
The illness was apparently spread by people fleeing an Oct. 25 coup attempt in Central African Republic, Mamba said.
It was not immediately clear what strain of flu was involved. Symptoms included fever, coughing, headaches and shivering.
Congo's four-year war has split the vast central African country between rebel- and government-held zones, and killed an estimated 2.5 million people — most from hunger and disease.