Friday, November 29, 2013
Friday, November 15, 2013
A tale of unintended consequences
‘Ship of Death: A Voyage that Changed the Atlantic World’ by Billy G. Smith
The sad irony is that the Hankey set sail from England in 1792 on the noblest of missions.
The ship’s abolitionist passengers hoped to create an inspirational colony on an island off the west coast of Africa where Africans would be employees rather than slaves. “If we succeed, it promises happiness to millions of living and millions of unborn people,” wrote Philip Beaver, a leader of the expedition.
Instead, as Billy G. Smith recounts, the pioneers fueled one of the most devastating plagues in Western history. The colonists toted water to their ship from streams on the African mainland, not knowing that the mosquitoes that bred in the water carried yellow fever.
When the cargo ship sailed off on further ventures, crisscrossing the Atlantic for six months, it brought yellow fever to dozens of ports in the West Indies, North America and Europe. Other ships had carried yellow fever, but not with such lethality: “Until the Hankey’s voyage in 1793, the concatenation of conditions that was to detonate the yellow fever bomb had never been present in so many places at the same time and with such ferocity,” Smith writes. “The result was a pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands people.”
The Hankey, infamous in its own time, fell into obscurity within decades. Apparently by chance, Smith, a historian at Montana State University, came across references to the ship in shipping records in Philadelphia, where the epidemic killed one of every 10 residents. He tracked the ship’s voyages, matching them with yellow fever reports, and created a narrative that, the author says, “brings together peoples who lived thousands of miles apart who discovered . . . that far-distant events could have impacts, sometimes fatal, on their own lives.” It’s an apt lesson, he points out, for our ever-shrinking globe.
The current worldwide shortage of the Yellow Fever vaccine is expected to last until January 2014, but The Tropical Medical Bureau have secured sufficient stock of the vaccine for the foreseeable future and are encouraging anyone planning to travel to a Yellow Fever region to receive the vaccine from their 22 clinics nationwide.
Proof of Yellow Fever cover is a requirement of entry for some countries in Africa and South America. If an individual cannot prove they have received the vaccine at least 10 days before entry they will be stopped at immigration and will be unable to complete their journey.
According to Dr Graham Fry, Medical Director of the Tropical Medical Bureau "It is extremely important to have a Yellow Fever vaccination. Contracting Yellow Fever is highly unpleasant, symptoms can include nausea, muscle pains, headaches and in some cases liver damage, which can lead to death."
For further information or to book an appointment, contact the Tropical Medical Bureau on 1850 487674 or visit tmb.ie.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
This past summer, Aedes aegypti—the invasive African mosquito best known for carrying the potentially deadly diseases dengue and yellow fever—made its unexpected debut in California, squirming up from Madera to Clovis to Fresno and the Bay Area.
For a blood-sucking nightmare, Aedes aegypti is surprisingly attractive: Its dark skin and bright white polka-dots make it hard to miss. Unfortunately, it is also notoriously difficult to control. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Aedes aegypti can lay its eggs in less than a teaspoon of liquid and survive without water for months.
While Aedes aegypti has long resided in Texas and the southeastern United States, this is the first time it's reached California. News outlets have covered the story extensively, but few have mentioned climate change's role in the mosquito's spread. The CDC says it's "likely thatAe. aegypti is continually responding or adapting to environmental change." In a 2012 report, the World Health Organization (WHO) pointed out that "temperatures, precipitation and humidity have a strong influence on the reproduction, survival and biting rates" of Aedes aegypti.Climate change studies predict that dengue—which infects as many as 100 million people a year—will expose an additional 2 billion by 2080. In 2009, the mosquito kicked off a Florida outbreak of dengue in a state that hadn't seen the disease in more than 70 years, and Thailand is currently undergoing its worst dengue epidemic in more than 20 years.
Dengue's initial symptoms often resemble the flu, but advanced infections—which cause lung and heart problems, severe abdominal pain, and bleeding from the nose and mouth—kill 15,000 people in 100 countries annually.
Yellow fever is no picnic, either: The disease was one of the world's most feared before the development of a vaccine in 1936. Its name comes from the illness' trademark jaundice, and it also causes severe stomach bleeding (often resulting in black vomit). It kills 15 percent of those infected and closer to 50 percent when left untreated.
In the past, yellow fever in the United States made its way as far north as New York City. In 1793, an outbreak even wiped out 10 percent of Philadelphia. Luckily, citizens figured out that they could stop its spread by overturning containers of standing water where mosquitoes bred, and yellow fever was largely eradicated in the United States. In the last 40 years, there have been only nine cases of yellow fever in the United States, all of which were contracted abroad. But in Africa and Central and South America, it's a much bigger problem: Roughly 200,000 new cases of yellow fever occur every year. Over the last 20 years, outbreaks have occurred in more countries with more frequency, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2010,Uganda had its first outbreak in more than 40 years. WHO reports the increasing number of cases is likely linked to climate change.
There is no vaccine for dengue, and American citizens typically do not get vaccinated against yellow fever unless they travel to a region where it's endemic. So far, there have been no cases of dengue or yellow fever connected to California's new Aedes aegypti, and none of the insects have tested positive for the diseases. But public health officials remain vigilant. "We were shocked," one insect control official in Madera, California, told the Los Angeles Times. "We never expected this mosquito in California."
Saturday, November 9, 2013
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been notified by the Sudanese Health Ministry of a yellow fever outbreak in West Kordofan state, according to a WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Meditteranean news release.
Based on the information available, the outbreak appears to be localized in the El-Reif El-Shargi and Lagawa localities of the state.
More than 10 blood samples have been tested for yellow fever from suspected cases in El-Reif El-Shargi locality in West Kordofan state by the National Public Health Laboratory in Khartoum. At least three samples have tested positive for the virus.
According to the WHO release, between 3 October and 2 November 2013, a total of 20 suspected cases of yellow fever were reported, including seven deaths, presenting a case fatality rate of 35%.
Patients were from Al-behara camp, Tabag and Alarda in Lagawa locality. Al-Behara is a camp for seasonal workers for gum arabic plantation.
In addition, patients were originally from east Sudan who travelled a month ago to Kordofan and have started residing at Al-Behara camp. The workers usually travel in groups from east Sudan. Currently, an estimated number of 200 people are residing in the camp.
The WHO has sent supplies to the State Ministry of Health comprising of medical equipment, life-saving medicines, laboratory tools, cleaning tools and disinfectant, mosquito nets and insecticides to the affected area.
During the last quarter of 2012, there was an outbreak of yellow fever in Darfur region. The total number of suspected yellow fever cases has reached 849, including 171 deaths (case–fatality rate 20.1%).
Three emergency vaccination campaigns were conducted resulting in approximately five million people vaccinated in the five states of Darfur.
Comment: It is recommended that all travelers from India to Sudan and other african countries take Yellow Fever vaccination to protect themselves against this deadly mosquito borne disease.