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Angola on the front line against yellow fever
June 30, 2016, 1:36 pm

In addition to their ongoing measures against malaria, since December 2015, hospitals and clinics in Angola have had to counter another, potentially more dangerous, mosquito-borne disease, Yellow Fever.

In its 16 June report, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that 345 people are reported to have died from yellow fever in the last seven months among more than 3,000 cases in Angola. Not since 1971 has there been such a serious outbreak, and doctors say some of the reasons for this may include the virus becoming more virulent, shortage of vaccines, immunity levels amongst the population dropping and most critically, people not vaccinating as they should.

Angola's health system is well regarded, and there are established countrywide vaccination and awareness programs. Since 1989, babies have been vaccinated against yellow fever at the age of nine months, and children cannot attend school unless they have a valid yellow fever certificate. But in recent years, some parents have produced fake certificates under the misconception that their children would get the disease and succumb to it if vaccinated.

Doctors admit that confirmation of yellow fever was made too late, because by then it had spread to thickly populated areas. Moreover, the vaccines, which have to be administered within 10 days of the disease being identified, were in short supply not in Angola, but also worldwide. To overcome the shortage, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended cutting the standard dose by 80 percent, which would provide immunity for at least 12 months.

Though Angola strictly enforces international regulations on travellers coming in and out of the country, it is already too late to prevent its spread beyond the country’s borders. Neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo has declared a localized yellow fever epidemic in three provinces, including the capital Kinshasa. Cases related to the outbreak in Angola have also surfaced in Kenya and China through migrant workers.

Vaccines take six months to produce and if there is another serious outbreak, global supplies will not be able to keep up with the demand.

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