Angola has reported 2’420 suspected cases of yellow fever with 298 deaths since late December 2015. Outbreaks have also been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. Exported cases of the mosquito borne viral disease have affected other African countries and as far away as China.

On Thursday, an Emergency Committee regarding yellow fever was convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General.

whoAfter discussion and deliberation on the information provided, it was the decision of the Committee that the urban yellow fever outbreaks in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a serious public health event which warrants intensified national action and enhanced international support. The Committee decided that based on the information provided the event does not at this time constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

While not considering the event currently to constitute a PHEIC, Members of the Committee strongly emphasized the serious national and international risks posed by urban yellow fever outbreaks and offered technical advice on immediate actions for the consideration of WHO and Member States in the following areas: the acceleration of surveillance, mass vaccination, risk communications, community mobilization, vector control and case management measures in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo; the assurance of yellow fever vaccination of all travellers, and especially migrant workers, to and from Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo and the intensification of surveillance and preparedness activities, including verification of yellow fever vaccination in travellers and risk communications, in at-risk countries and countries having land borders with the affected countries.

Vaccine shortages have been a serious concern with the outbreak in Africa and was an impetus to convene the Emergency Committee, as the outbreaks put a strain on the global yellow fever vaccine stockpile.

According to Bruce Aylward, MD, MPH, the WHO’s executive director for outbreaks and health emergencies: Based on information presented to the emergency committee, the current outbreaks can be handled with the existing vaccine supply, with the global stockpile expected to increase from 6 million to 7 million by the end of the month. However, new urban-based outbreaks with similarly explosive spread could lead to another shortage.

The shortages have gone so far as to affect the US Department of Defense.