Yellow Fever: An Epidemic Going Ignored
By admin August 29, 2016

yellow fever

While a majority of the western world focuses on the ravages of Zika, another deadly virus is threatening to make the move towards a global epidemic. Yellow fever, a virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, has been around for over 3,000 years. It is incurable, and although most people only face flu-like symptoms, 15 percent of those who get the virus develop serious complications such as jaundice, internal and external bleeding, which invariably leads to death.  While a vaccine exists, for many decades, the virus had been in control and therefore forgotten by many nations. Now, many nations in Western Africa are facing an outbreak. Nigeria, Congo, and Angola are all faced with the fresh threat of a yellow fever epidemic across their nations.

How did a disease on the decline make such a deadly comeback? Experts say it was a perfect storm. “The December 2015 yellow fever outbreak arose in the midst of the perfect storm. In the months prior, dropping oil prices for Africa’s second-largest crude exporter, Angola, ushered in cuts in public sanitation services; in turn, urban trash buildup created an optimal breeding ground for the mosquitoes. It arose at the onset of the rainy season, which meant more stagnant water in old tires and stray bottle caps, where mosquitoes breed. And most of all, it arose while the world was turned the other way, frenzied by the new epidemic, Zika,” reports the Washington Post. To add to their worries, when the first few cases arose in Angola, there were only 6 million vaccines in the entire global stockpile. While at first it was assumed that these would more than suffice, Angola faced a slew of problems. At first, they misdiagnosed those with yellow fever to have food poisoning. This delayed the alarm bells making the virus transmit to many more people before there was any national or international focus on them. Then, when the vaccines finally arrived, over a million were missing, and many were not properly refrigerated while others were broken. The news only gets more dismal from here – there are only four factories in the world that produce a yellow fever vaccine, and they do it from a 80 year old protocol manual. Now, more than 3,000 people in Angola, and 1,000 in Congo are feared to be infected while more than 400 people have already died.

The terror of Yellow Fever doesn’t end here. There are many foreign workers in Congo; especially Chinese nationals who could easily carry the virus back to their home country, starting the spread in Asia. There is also the threat of this virus making it to the West and to many other nations where it could wreak havoc. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other international organizations are challenging $34 million dollars to get more vaccines to Angola, and slow the spread of the virus. With control, vaccination, and prevention, yellow fever can definitely be stopped; but only time will tell but whether we succeed or the virus.

For more information:

 Yellow Fever Timeline: The history of a long misunderstood disease

As Congos globe threatening yellow fever pandemic explodes they ask where is the vaccine 

A yellow fever epidemic in Angola could turn into a global crisis 

A yellow fever epidemic made worse by vaccine shortage

In pictures: Yellow fever vaccination in DR Congo’s capital Kinshasa

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