“Could Yellow Fever Become the Next Pandemic?” | Scientific American
Published in the Scientific American on August 15, 2016, Emily Baumgaertner reports about the "suspected" cases of yellow fever in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which have not been confirmed due to a dearth of access to the required blood tests. The article dives into the implications of the unconfirmed yellow fever cases:
the missing diagnoses have troubling implications for the rest of the world. They mean the yellow fever outbreak that began creeping through Angola in December 2015 and then spread to the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) earlier this year is nowhere near as well controlled as it should be at this point—eight months into the outbreak.
Indeed, yellow fever could be on the verge of exploding out of central Africa and spreading to Asia, which has never before suffered a major outbreak. The most likely route of transmission: any one of the thousands of unvaccinated Chinese expatriates who are building roads, dams and other big projects in the region. Health authorities already know of at least a dozen workers who returned to China earlier this year and turned out to be sick with yellow fever. How many more infected workers might escape official notice and quarantine, thereby allowing the mosquito-borne virus to gain a toehold in a new part of the world?
Moreover, the article raises the issue of limited yellow fever vaccine:
Because there is not enough yellow fever vaccine in existence to protect the entire country, let alone the world, health officials in the DRC must be selective in their efforts to keep the virus from spreading. The idea is to stop transmission by vaccinating everyone who lives near a yellow fever patient while spraying against mosquitoes and draining the standing pools of water where the insects lay their eggs. Thus, health care workers from the country’s Ministry of Health and other groups depend on laboratory confirmation of yellow fever cases to tell them whom to vaccinate and where to spray.
Read the full article in the Scientific American here.
Learn more about the World Health Organization's emergency preparedness response in the region here, including a timeline of the yellow fever outbreak.