The suspected number of yellow fever cases and death toll continue to rise in war-torn Darfur as millions of yellow fever vaccines are being mobilized into the outbreak area, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) - Sudan news release Nov. 13.
The UN health agency is reporting 358 suspected cases of the deadly mosquito borne disease, while the fatalities have also risen to 107. This is up from 329 suspected cases and 97 deaths just two days prior.
The WHO and Sudanese health officials report the mobilization of 2.4 million vaccines into Greater Darfur; however, the mass vaccination campaign is not supposed to begin until early December.
This delay may have dire consequences according to one expert.
Paul Reiter, professor of medical entomology at the Pasteur Institute in Paris told AlertNet yesterday that if the virus spreads beyond the western Sudan region it would be a “catastrophe”.
“This is a terribly serious situation -- if things really were to start moving rapidly, we really would not be able to do very much. It all balloons very quickly… We have very little means at our disposal for combating an epidemic in the case of yellow fever.”
Transportation of vaccine to the country, and then to the region, plus the training of personnel are the given reasons why the campaign cannot begin immediately.
The International Coordinating Group on Vaccine (ICG) is providing the vaccines; however, the quantity provided will be 33 percent less than what the Sudan government requested (3.6 million doses).
The shortage on available vaccine for the Greater Darfur region is part of a “pipeline” issue. This is frequently due to unpredictable demand and a short vaccine shelf life.
According to the WHO, yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The "yellow" in the name refers to the jaundice that affects some patients. The yellow fever virus is an arbovirus of the flavivirus genus, and the mosquito is the primary vector. It carries the virus from one host to another, primarily between monkeys, from monkeys to humans, and from person-to-person.
Once contracted, the virus incubates in the body for 3 to 6 days, followed by infection that can occur in one or two phases. The first acute phase usually causes fever, muscle pain with prominent backache, headache, shivers, loss of appetite, and nausea or vomiting. Most patients improve and their symptoms disappear after 3 to 4 days.
One confirmed case of yellow fever in an unvaccinated population should be considered an outbreak and a confirmed case in any context must be fully investigated, particularly in any area where most of the population has been vaccinated.
There is no specific treatment for the viral illness but it can be contained using bed nets, insect repellents and long clothing.
Prevention of this viral disease is through vaccination.
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