Monday, August 22, 2016
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Kenya has not put in place new measures to tackle yellow fever, a disease that has so far claimed more than 440 lives in Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Instead, Kenya has beefed up national surveillance of the viral disease at points of entry such as airports and border towns, Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu told Nation on Tuesday.
Dr Mailu said the surveillance was “keeping track of the trend of the infection and we are planning appropriately”.
“As there are no other cases since the last two in March this year, we are continuing with routine checks,” he said.
Both cases were male Kenyans in their early 30s working in Luanda, Angola and showed symptoms of the disease on arrival in the country between March 12 and 18.
Both had never been vaccinated. One succumbed to multiple organ failure and the other was treated and later discharged.
The Health CS added: “We are also letting the public know that the yellow fever vaccine is for life and not 10 years as initially thought.”
The Ministry of Health has listed 23 centres where Kenyans can get the vaccine.
These are ports of entry like Kilindini Port (Mombasa), all airports (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Moi, Eldoret, Kisumu, Malindi, Lokichogio, Wajir and Wilson airports), one-stop border posts (Taveta, Lungalunga, Namanga, Isebania, Malaba, Busia and Loitoktok).
It is also available at Kenyatta National Hospital, Armed Forces Memorial Hospital and at health facilities operated by county health authorities and at county headquarters in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret.
This comes as an emergency vaccination programme is under way in DR Congo, targeting three million people in a desperate move to curb the spread of the disease caused by the same mosquito that causes Zika, Aedes Egypti.
The first yellow fever cases were detected in Luanda, Angola, late last December and were confirmed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa on January 19, 2016 and by the Institut Pasteur Dakar on January 20.
The DRC has reported 1,798 suspected and 68 confirmed cases with 85 reported deaths as at June 24.
In Angola, the Health ministry reported 3,625 suspected cases from December 5, 2015 to July 8, 2016, of which 876 were laboratory confirmed. The number of reported deaths is 357, of which 117 were among confirmed cases.
What is worrying is that there is persistent local transmission in the country despite approximately 15 million people having been vaccinated.
Save the Children, a British charity, has warned that a yellow fever outbreak — currently the largest global one in three decades — in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola could soon spread to Europe, the Americas and Asia.
Kenya and the People’s Republic of China reported two and 11 cases respectively, all imported from Angola.
Seven countries — Brazil, Chad, Colombia, Ghana, Guinea, Peru and Uganda — are currently experiencing yellow fever outbreaks or sporadic cases not linked to the Angolan one.
Monday, August 1, 2016
For much of the past year, the Zika virus has dominated the news cycle and commanded international attention. But another mosquito-borne disease, yellow fever, is working its way (albeit more quietly) through the African nations of Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Though it has attracted far less attention than the Zika virus, yellow fever nevertheless could disrupt economic activities in and beyond those countries, a key consideration in assessing the geopolitical risk of a disease outbreak. What's more, a large number of foreign workers in Angola and the Congo as well as a vaccine shortage worldwide could conspire to turn the latest outbreak of yellow fever — a disease that has been preventable for nearly 80 years — into a more global concern.
Angola's latest outbreak of yellow fever began in December 2015. Since peaking in early 2016, the incidence of new cases has dropped off. But that does not mean the outbreak is under control. Containing the spread of the disease remains an issue; though about 70 percent of Angola's population (around 15 million people) has been vaccinated against yellow fever, transmission continues. Furthermore, as recently as May, incidences of the disease were popping up in regions previously unaffected by the epidemic. In neighboring Congo, the outbreak is still developing. Having crossed the porous border with Angola, the disease has already reached five Congolese provinces, causing nearly 2,000 suspected cases.
Angola's economic ties with China could also prove to be a conduit for transmitting yellow fever. Angola sends roughly half its crude oil exports to China, and Chinese direct investment, in turn, has buoyed not only Angola's oil sector but also its construction industry. Along with the money, hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens have gone to Angola for work; more than 250,000 resided there in 2012. Similarly, China has invested a substantial amount of money and manpower into mining projects in the Congo, where at least 5,000 Chinese workers live. Considering the size of the population overlap, it is not at all surprising that China reported 11 confirmed cases of yellow fever from Angola in April. As the disease continues to spread in Angola and the Congo, more cases could be brought back to China. So long as Angola's oil production and the Congo's mining activities continue as expected, yellow fever's effect on the global economy should be minimal. But given the limited supply of yellow fever vaccine, if the disease takes hold in China, it could have wider economic consequences.
Comment: Given the large number of Indians who are traveling to Africa for work and VFR (visiting friends and relatives) it would be prudent to ensure that proper Yellow Fever Vaccination is taken and certification done for all Indian travelers. Otherwise, we may end up with yellow fever epidemic in India as well.