Congo Declares Yellow Fever Epidemic

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An outbreak of yellow fever, an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes, has hit the Democratic Republic of Congo. A total of 67 cases with five deaths have been confirmed in three provinces while another 1,000 are being monitored, Felix Kabange, the country’s health minister said. He also said that seven of the proven cases had originated in DRC while 60 were imported from Angola.

The outbreak has raised alarm among global health officials because the stockpile of vaccinations has already been badly depleted by the Angola outbreak and others in Uganda and neighbouring Congo Brazzaville. The current method for creating new vaccines, in chicken eggs, takes up to a year. There are fears that the virus could spread rapidly in the DRC’s densely-packed capital of Kinshasa, which has a population of 12 million with poorly-resourced and staffed hospitals. It comes at a time when mineral-rich Congo is in a violent protest over the controversial third term of the president.

The virus, which is endemic in tropical areas of Africa, Central and South America re-surfaced in Angola in December 2015, killing more than 300 people in the country and infecting another 2,267. Julie Hall, health director for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, urged international agencies and donors to react early to stave off another outbreak on the scale of Ebola, which killed more than 10,000 people in West Africa between 2013 and 2015.

Good supportive treatment in hospitals improves survival rates. There is currently no specific anti-viral drug for yellow fever.

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