Newsbrief, TerraViva United Nations

Angola Battles Yellow Fever Outbreak

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 24 2016 (IPS) - A yellow fever outbreak in Angola has killed almost 200 people in the first epidemic of the disease to hit the country in 30 years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Thursday.

Since December 2015, the outbreak has largely gripped the capital city of Luanda.

“With the majority of cases reported in the capital city, the situation is more dangerous and difficult to contain because the disease can spread easily from one person to another,” said WHO expert on epidemic diseases Sergio Yactayo.

There are approximately two million residents in Luanda while over 6.5 million live in the province.

Yactayo noted the disease has already spread. According to Angola’s health ministry, ten out of the country’s 18 provinces have reported yellow fever cases. So far, there are 460 confirmed cases.

Infected mosquitoes, the most common species being the Aedes aegypti, transmit yellow fever virus. The species is also responsible for the current spread of the Zika virus in South America.

Though vaccinations against the disease have already effectively decreased its reach, there is a global vaccine shortage, Yactayo noted.

“We have to keep going and vaccinate all the people in Luanda and the affected provinces to end this outbreak. This is an enormous job which is exhausting the supplies of vaccines,” he remarked.

In the Luanda province alone, an additional 1.5 million doses are needed to vaccinate the population at risk. Without treatment, at least half of patients with severe yellow fever die within 10 to 14 days.

WHO, in partnership with the Angolan Ministry of Health, has vaccinated 5.7 million people in the area.

The source of the epidemic is believed to be poor sanitation, which provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

The oil export-dependent southern African nation was hit hard by the decline in oil prices, sending its kwanza currency into a freefall and causing its government to make deep cuts in public spending. The budget for waste collection services in particular was cut by almost 70 percent, leaving piles of waste accumulating in poorer suburbs including Viana where the first case of yellow fever was reported in December.

This has also contributed to the rise of other diseases including malaria, cholera and chronic diarrhea.

As the number of cases increase within Angola and in its neighboring countries, WHO has urged prioritizing vaccination of people at high risk of yellow fever.

The health organisation is in discussion with partners to replenish the vaccine emergency stockpile while local health authorities have scaled up their surveillance, investigation, and communications activities.


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