Yellow Fever: Fighting the Outbreak in Angola

Yellow fever outbreak in Angola
Figure 1: A Angolan military administers a yellow fever vaccine to a child at ‘Quilometro 30’ market, Luanda, Angola, 16 February 2016. This market in the Angolan capital was considered the center of the yellow fever outbreak killing 51 people out of 240 cases since December of 2015.

Many of us are aware of the current epidemic of the Zika virus, but another mosquito-borne virus is also making headlines this year: yellow fever. Yellow fever is a zoonotic disease that originates from Africa that can be transmitted between primates and humans. Symptoms can vary from no illness, mild flu-like, and according to the CDC 15% can develop into a severe form of the disease. This severe form is usually characterized by liver failure, jaundice, and high fever. Although there is no set treatment except treating symptoms experience, there is a vaccine that in a single dose can protect up to a lifetime.

yellowfever 2
Figure 2: Highlights areas with confirmed and suspected cases of yellow fever. Not shown in image is China, with 11 suspected cases from travelers coming from Angola. 

Since yellow fever is easily transmitted by a mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti, it has spread throughout the world causing epidemics since the mid 1600’s. The article “Angola’s front line against yellow fever” from BBC highlights this year’s outbreak that started in Angola in December 2015, the first of its kind since 1971.  Since December the virus has continued to spread in Africa east of Angola and into China, as seen in Figure 2. Cases in China and Kenya though are suspected to be from travelers returning from Angola, which is why travelers must take cautions when going to areas where yellow fever is relevant.

As to date there have been over 4,000 suspected cases and approximately 416 deaths. Doctors in Angola are alarmed due to the high number of deaths and think this could be due to the virus becoming more virulent or worse people are not getting vaccinated. This is concerning due to children have been mandated since 1989 to get vaccinated or they are not allowed to attend school. Doctors suspect that false yellow fever certificates and fears of vaccinations are to blame for lack of vaccinations.

Efforts by World Health Organization (WHO) are being made to try to stop the disease from spreading further, but this is not an easy task.  The first problem is the global shortage of vaccinations. Shortages are alarming due to the fact that it takes up to six months to produces the vaccinations, which in that time could result to increased spread of the disease. To tackle the problem WHO has cut the dosage to a fraction of the original dose to try to protect people for up to 12 months. Hopefully this will control the spread until more vaccines are produced. Stricter travel regulations are also in placed to prevent the spread of the disease to other countries in the mean time.

So with two mosquito-borne diseases on the rise this summer, Zika and yellow fever, we must take extra cautions while traveling and spending time in potential effected areas. So before you travel or head out side just make sure you grab you insect repellant or get vaccinated if available.

For the news article click here.

For updates and reports from World Health Organization click here.

For more information about yellow fever click here.



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