Sixteen people have died of an acute form of typhoid fever and 144 others have become infected in recent weeks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a medical source in the capital, Kinshasa, told IRIN on Monday.
"We're talking about typhoid-fever complications called Peritonitis, which is created by the puncturing of the intestine of the sick person, which could lead to death if the person is not treated in time", Dr Miandolo Miakala, a medical inspector, said.
"There is a nine percent death rate - 16 people among the 150 cases that we've recorded in our hospitals in Kinshasa," he added.
Miakala said the first cases of the outbreak were recorded in early October.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) in Kinshasa has classified the situation as an epidemic.
"We are sending a team on the ground to conduct tests, determine the causes and map out the hot spots of the epidemic," Dr Edmond Magazini, the WHO head for Kinshasa, said.
Miakala said the cases stem from a typhoid epidemic that was ravaging the city, a situation brought on by the town's cesspools, dirty waters and lack of proper hygiene. He said the government had launched a campaign to clean the town's dirty waters that had reached "worrisome levels".
"In Kinshasa, some households use well water located next to latrines - let's hope that it is not the main factor causing the epidemic," Magazini said. "There are levels of typhoid fever, unfortunately there are a growing number of severe cases, with the intestine rupturing within two weeks."
The government has already distributed antibiotics and other medical equipment to hospitals to treat patients.