Yellow fever outbreak sparks vaccine fears in Angola
A major vaccination campaign to contain the worst yellow fever outbreak in Angola for 30 years is under threat, according to leading health authorities. Limited vaccines and the spread of the disease to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Kenya and China has raised fears of a global health emergency comparable to the Ebola outbreak of 2014. Earlier this week, the
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
launched an appeal for US$1.4 million to help the
Angola Red Cross
reach 9 million people, although more funding is likely to be needed to halt the disease, which leads to kidney failure and is spread by the same
Aedes aegypti mosquito
that carries the
Zika
virus. “Tragically, more than 350 people in Angola have already died from this [yellow fever] outbreak,” said Dr Adinoyi Adeiza, Health Coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Africa. “People are understandably anxious and it is important that we engage them to address fears and dispel possible superstitions, and to ultimately support them in understanding what they can do to prevent the spread of yellow fever.” The
World Health Organisation
has classified the outbreak as a grade 2 (moderate) emergency after recording 353 deaths in Angola since December. There are 3,464 suspected and confirmed cases in the southern African country, despite 11 million people over the age of six months having been vaccinated. Angola has a population of 24 million. A total of 1,307 suspected and confirmed cases are also being treated with caution in DR Congo, while two more countries have been put on alert after two cases linked to the Angola outbreak were confirmed in Kenya, and eleven in China. Millions of Chinese workers travel between Africa and Asia, which could present a significant challenge to efforts aimed at limiting the spread of the disease. Having distributed 18 million doses of the vaccine to Angola and DR Congo since February, International Coordination Group stockpiles used by the World Health Organisation have been depleted, meaning response teams are now diluting the vaccine fivefold to buy time for more vaccinations to be produced. A 20 percent dosage offers protection for up to a year. It can take up to six months to manufacture new yellow fever vaccines, meaning that a temporary solution is needed. With the rainy season just a few months away, the risk of the diseasing spreading is significantly higher.
Data
shows that six months after the first Ebola case the World Health Organisation reported 13,567 cases in eight countries, and 4,951 deaths. The risk of contracting yellow fever however is already present in 30 African countries and international development agencies remain fearful of a repeat of the Ebola crisis.
By Adam Pitt
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Photo: USAID/Angola/Alison Bird