The present outbreaks of yellow fever (YF) in China, other African countries and Angola have prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to gather an emergency committee on May 19, 2016, to decide which are the best solutions to tackle this crisis.
Infectious disease authorities from Singapore and South Africa explained the ecology and epidemiology of YF and established what are the factors that might influence the decrease or increase of progression to epidemic from the outbreak.
It is known that the YF vaccine is highly effective. However, WHO is concerned that there is a high risk of epidemics both in Africa and Asia because of the unvaccinated populations who were hit by the outbreak. Despite this, WHO believes that this outbreak is not a global threat because it is under control.
On May 19th, 2016, Angola has reported 298 deaths out of 2420 suspected cases of YF. Later, 736 of those cases have been confirmed in the laboratory. In spite of vaccination campaigns in Benguela, Huambo, and Luanda provinces, the virus circulation persists in some districts.
For everyone YF is just a bad dream that is part of history. In 1905, there was the last recorded outbreak in Gibraltar, Europe and New Orleans, United States. Back then, it caused tens of thousands of deaths. Nowadays YF can move very quick by air whereas in the past it could travel slowly by ship. Therefore, it is believed that the stock of vaccine supply is below demand.
According to Sean Wasserman, from the University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa, there is a large Chinese workforce in Angola during this outbreak, meaning that they could get infected and take the disease back in China leading to a massive epidemic among a population of two billion people.
Plus, the statistics show that there is a growing number of imported cases in China, proving how critical the situation is. On the other hand, epidemic YF in the Americas was fought back by mosquito reduction and mass vaccination programs.
According to T.M. Yuill, Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, if the Angola outbreak spreads in both China and Africa, WHO will not have enough resources to tackle the infection. Hopefully, the situation of yellow fever will not persist in the future.
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