Yellow Fever(YF) has broken out in Angola. The disease is centered in the capital city Luanda with over 24 000 cases as of May 19. There have been 298 deaths due to the disease. While the current outbreak is greatest in Angola, cases have also been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It is difficult to gauge how many cases of the disease have occurred, with some experts stating that there may be as many as 250 times as many cases as those which are brought to medical personnel.
Any urban outbreak is cause for real concern. WHO convened a special conference to deal with the mounting cases. They have dubbed it a “serious public health event”.
The disease is caused by a virus that is spread when an infected mosquito bites. The two types of mosquitoes that currently spread the disease are found throughout Africa, Americas and much of Asia. In the wild, primates are the reservoir for the virus. When a mosquito bites an infected monkey and goes on to bite a human, the virus is spread. In an urban centre, the virus can spread through mosquito bites to other humans.
YF has been known in New Orleans and Gibralter in the early 1900s but a combination of vaccinations and aggressive mosquito control has kept it at bay. It is firmly established in Venezuela and Brazil.
WHO is particularly concerned about this outbreak because of the potential to cause a serious outbreak in China, home to two billion people. China and Angola have close economic ties based on the oil industry. Some airlines offer direct flights from Luanda to Beijing. As of April 11, the public health authority in the PRC has identified 11 cases of YF in their citizens who have travelled/worked in Angola.
The world maintains a stockpile of vaccine which is effective in preventing YF. Approximately 40 million doses are on hand. In order to stop the human to human transmission of the virus many more doses are needed and the process of manufacturing it takes time.
Travellers to and from Angola may be required to show proof of vaccination in order to prevent the spread of the disease.
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