The yellow fever outbreak in Angola, which began in the capital city Luanda in December 2015, is being called the worst in 30 years as ten out of the eighteen provinces in Angola continue reporting yellow fever cases with a a total of 459 confirmed cases and 178 deaths to date.

Aedes aegypti/CDC
Aedes aegypti/CDC

“Such outbreaks usually occur in tropical rainforests,” explains Dr Sergio Yactayo, expert on epidemic diseases at WHO. “With the majority of cases reported in the capital city Luanda, the situation is more dangerous and difficult to contain because the disease can spread easily from one person to another. We are already seeing cases spread to a number of provinces outside Luanda.”

In addition, cases are being exported out of Angola as cases have been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo,Kenya and China.

To stop the outbreak, Angola developed a National Response Plan and a total of 6.4 million people were targeted for yellow fever vaccination in the Province of Luanda. To date, 87% of this target population has been vaccinated. A total of 7.355 million doses of yellow fever vaccines were made available with the support of WHO, the ICG (International Coordinating Group for yellow fever vaccine provision) and countries including Brazil and South Sudan.

Angola is one of some 45 countries in Africa and South America with risk for yellow fever transmission.

Yellow fever virus is transmitted by infected mosquitoes, the most common species being Aedes aegypti – the same mosquito that spreads the Zika virus. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. A small percentage of infected people experience a second more severe phase of illness which includes high fever, jaundice and internal bleeding. At least half of severely affected patients who don’t receive treatment die within 10 to 14 days.