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article imageSudan's outbreak of yellow fever worst in past 20 years

By Raluca Besliu     Dec 29, 2012 in Politics
Experts claim that the outbreak of yellow fever currently affecting Sudan is the worst the world has experienced in the past 20 years.
The disease has already claimed the lives of 168 people, while 800 suspected cases of the mosquito-spread disease have been reported across Darfur, since the outbreak began in October. Many more cases are likely not being reported to health authorities. The official death toll has currently surpassed that of a 2005 yellow fever outbreak in Sudan's South Kordofan region, which led to 163 deaths from 604 cases over a period of five months.
Yellow fever is caused by a mosquito-borne virus endemic in tropical regions of Africa and South America. In its extreme form, it causes jaundice with liver and kidney failure as well as systemic bleeding. Yellow fever often reaches epidemic proportions and results in high death rates.
The current outbreak in Sudan could be linked to heavy rains and flooding in the region, which facilitated mosquito breeding this year. Moreover, prior to the recent outbreak, Darfur’s routine vaccination programs had never included vaccinations against the yellow fever virus, which could have facilitated its rapid and extensive spread.
The disease’s occurrence has followed nomadic migration routes across Darfur and has affected mainly rural areas, although there is a risk of it spreading to urban areas as well as the camps for internally displaced people, which house over 2 million people forced to flee their homes due to the conflict in Darfur. While a vaccine can prevent infection, there is no specific drug treatment for infected individuals.
Darfur launched a national immunization campaign in November 2012 to cover 2.2 million people, which ended on December 7th. The second phase this month was launched on December 15th and it aims to reach an additional 1.2 million people at risk.
In organizing its national vaccination campaign, the Sudanese government has received the support of the international community, mainly through the World Health Organization (WHO). 1.3 million doses of yellow fever vaccine for the second phase of the campaign were mobilized through the support of the Government of Sweden. On December 18, the UK announced that it provide $2,9 million to support the vaccination of 2 million in Darfur.
The yellow fever outbreak has affected 34 localities in Central, South, West, North, and East Darfur.
In reporting the updated regional situation and the vaccination campaign’s results thus far, West Darfur's health minister claims that the yellow fever ended in his state. In turn, Central Darfur’s health officials explained that new cases had been registered, but that the patients all came from a gold mining area in Northern Darfur and that Central Darfur had not recorded any new locally-generated cases in over two weeks. The health minister of South Darfur announced the initiation of a third phase of vaccination campaign in the state, after the second phase ended on December 27th and covered over 70 percent of the population.
While prevention measure may be under way for the yellow fever outbreak, a rising health problem might carry even worse consequences for Sudan. Recently, the federal health minister announced the outbreak of schistosomiasis, an infection with a type of Schistosoma parasite caused mainly by contact with contaminated water, in Sudan and declared that 80 percent of the population is vulnerable to contracting the disease.
The consequences of the two main types of schistosomiasis, urinary and intestinal, are devastating. In the first type, there is gradual damage to the bladder, ureters and kidneys, while, in the latter, there is progressive enlargement of the liver and spleen, intestinal damage, and hypertension of the abdominal blood vessels.
The minister revealed that, in North Kordofan, around two million people are already infected with schistosomiasis. He stressed that this is the highest infection rate in the country, affecting 70 percent of the population, followed by East and South Darfur, where 64 and 42 percent respectively have schistosomiasis.
More about Sudan, Darfur, Yellow fever
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