Health officials in Angola announced they have extended the yellow fever vaccination campaign beyond the capital Luanda into Huambo and Benguela – 2 of the other 5 provinces reporting local transmission.
The outbreak, described as the worst in 30 years, has grown to 1908 suspected cases of yellow fever (617 laboratory confirmed) and 250 deaths since the outbreak began in December 2015. The majority of the cases are concentrated in Luanda and in two other provinces, namely, Huambo and Huila.
In addition, yellow fever cases in people who traveled from Angola have been reported in 3 countries China (11 cases), Democratic Republic of Congo (10 cases with 1 in Kinshasa) and Kenya (2 cases).
Three yellow fever cases have been reported in the south of Uganda. The patients had no travel history to Angola.
In order to contain the outbreak outside the capital, nearly 2.15 million people will be vaccinated in 5 densely populated urban districts in Huambo and Benguela provinces over the coming weeks. Around 1 million people in the 2 provinces have been vaccinated thus far.
“This targeted vaccination is critical to protect those most at risk countrywide and to stop the further spread of infection by making the best use of available global vaccine supplies”, said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Along with the vaccination campaign, the Ministry of Health, WHO and partners are working to strengthen disease surveillance and diagnostic capacity, both within Angola and neighboring countries, and enhance vector control, including using community-led public health education campaigns.
″The immediate concern is that the virus might spread to other urban centres in Angola and other countries. WHO urges all countries, especially those that border Angola, to increase disease surveillance and strengthen vector control as well as ensuring that all those travelling to Angola are vaccinated,” says Dr Bruce Aylward, Executive Director a.i., Outbreaks and Health Emergencies, WHO.
Angola’s outbreak has stretched existing yellow fever vaccine supplies. During outbreaks, available vaccine are prioritized for the emergency response. At the end of March 2016, thanks to ICG partners, including UNICEF, the yellow fever emergency vaccine stockpile was replenished and approximately 10 million doses of the vaccine are now available.
Concerns exist that if yellow fever should spread to other countries in Africa and Asia there would be a need to further prioritize vaccine supplies, which would interrupt routine immunization programs in some countries.
“Stockpiling yellow fever vaccine has proved critical in combating the current resurgence of the disease,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “With 12 million doses of vaccine, including 3 million for Angola, Gavi is the single biggest contributor to the emergency yellow fever stockpile. The current situation is a reminder of the importance of investing in strong and sustainable routine immunization programs to prevent such outbreaks and protect populations’ health.”
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