Government of Congo Declares Yellow Fever Has Reached Epidemic Levels, Implements Measures To Combat It
So far 67 cases of Yellow Fever have been confirmed in Congo, across several provinces and resulting in five dead, driving the government to implement official epidemic control measures. The nation’s capital as well as the provinces of Kinshasa, Kongo Central and Kwango have all been affected.
In making the announcement of the epidemic measures, health minister Felix Kabange told reporters that health agencies are in the process of testing around 1,000 people who may have contracted the virus.
Mosquitoes hasten the spread of the Yellow Fever virus, usually in areas of tropical rainforest, and causes symptoms within three to six days. Patients typically are afflicted with a fever, possibly a headache and muscle pain as well. These symptoms are also often accompanied by nausea and vomiting and loss of appetite. This stage usually passes after an additional three or four days.
Unfortunately, some 15 percent of patients develop more serious issues like kidney failure and bleeding from the mouth, nose, eyes and stomach. Around half of those whose infections reach this secondary stage succumb to death.
The health agencies that are tracking the outbreak say that the cases currently being treated in the Congo can be traced to an outbreak in Angola. That outbreak is responsible for the deaths of over 300 people in the past year and a half. There have also been suspected cases of yellow fever linked to the Angola outbreak have in Kenya and China. The World Health Organization has declared the Angola outbreak the worst in 30 years.
Facing shortages of vaccines against the virus, WHO is pondering a contingency plan that would involve only giving a dose that is one fifth of the standard amount, hoping it will offer temporary protection and protect people from imminent outbreaks.
In the Angola outbreak, the problems were exacerbated by the rapid spread of the disease through urban centers as opposed to the typical rainforest areas where it usually crops up. as to the current outbreak in Congo, there are indications that the government is moving quickly to contain the outbreak.
However health agency personnel are concerned that the lack of vaccines and the dearth of international aid could make it difficult to contain fully. With international aid resources already responding to the Zika virus, there just might not be anybody who can help.
And travelers with forged vaccination documents could make it worse, according to the Red Cross:
“Unvaccinated travelers could transform this outbreak into a regional or international crisis if we don’t move quickly to protect vulnerable populations and help communities to reduce their risk of infection,” said Red Cross/Red Crescent representative Julie Hall.