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article imageYellow fever spreading as world's vaccine supply depleted

By Karen Graham     Apr 14, 2016 in Health
The yellow fever outbreak that started in December 2015 has killed hundreds of people in Angola. The often fatal mosquito-borne disease has now spread to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where it has already killed 21 people.
As was reported in Digital Journal on March 24, the present outbreak is the worst in Angola in over 30 years and the disease has since spread to 16 or the country's 18 provinces.
This week, the DRC is reporting that 21 people have died from yellow fever, many of the deaths being people who had contracted the disease in Angola. ABC.net.au is reporting the World Health Organization (WHO) is saying there is a great risk of the disease spreading further in the DRC because of the amount of travel between the two countries.
Other countries with yellow fever
Ugandan health officials are also reporting yellow fever victims in Masaka, where at least 10 people have died. WHO says it is not clear if the cases in Uganda are related to the Angola outbreak because of the distance between the two countries.
Additional cases that are related to the yellow fever outbreak in Angola include nine cases in China, two in Kenya and several more cases in Mauritania and Morocco. The WHO is reporting the cases "were imported" from Angola. "The report of yellow fever infection in travelers returning from Angola ... highlights the risk of international spread," the WHO statement said, reports CNN News.
Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne virus
Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease and gets its name from the jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, that affects some people with the disease. It is transmitted by the bite of two kinds of mosquitoes, one of them being Aedes aegypti, the same mosquito that carries the Zika virus, dengue fever, and chikungunya virus.
The CDC points out while vaccination can protect people from the disease, once a person gets yellow fever, there is no cure. Symptoms include fever, nausea, and vomiting, with most people recovering in about one week. However, about 15 percent of victims go on to develop a more "toxic" form of the disease, and this can include bleeding and organ failure. At least half of these patients will die.
Vaccine supply has been depleted
According to a UNICEF report prepared in 2015, there are four manufacturers of the "WHO pre-qualified" yellow fever vaccine: Bio-Manguinhos in Brazil, Institut Pasteur de Dakar (Senegal), FSUE Chumakov in Russia and Sanofi Pasteur (France). As of last year, the Brazillian manufacturer was suspended from producing the vaccine.
Bur here is what is interesting: UNICEF reports that The total global demand of 64 million doses per year exceeds the current supplies available by 42 percent. In the current outbreak, WHO has stepped up its immunization program in Angola and neighboring countries but has depleted its supplies of the vaccine.
"If yellow fever were to spread in Asia, where two billion people are at risk in 18 dengue-affected countries, hundreds of thousands could die before YF vaccine stocks could be boosted and delivered," John Woodall, who co-founded online disease alert service Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases, wrote on the Pro-Med website.
More about yellow fever outbreak, vaccine depleted, Spreading, Aedes aegypti mosquito, no cure
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