Wednesday, 25 May 2016

WMA expresses concern about current yellow fever epidemic

WMA expresses concern about current yellow fever epidemic

The World Medical Association (WMA) has expressed concern about the possible spread of yellow fever epidemic, including a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine.

Angola, in Africa, is currently in the midst of a yellow fever outbreak since December 2015, reported to be the worst in three decades. It has infected more than 2,000 people, with cases also reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and China. The yellow fever virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also transmits the Zika virus, dengue and chikungunya. Symptoms of yellow fever infection range from a self-limiting febrile illness to severe liver disease and organ failure.

On 19th May, the WHO had convened an Emergency Committee (EC) in view of the outbreak of yellow fever in Angola in Africa, where it was decided that the urban yellow fever outbreaks in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are a serious public health event, which warrants intensified national action and enhanced international support. 

While welcoming this statement from WHO, Sir Michael Marmot President World Medical Association also sounded a note of caution saying that this was not the time to relax. He said, “We simply cannot afford another failure to co-ordinate a quick and effective response to a global epidemic. We live in a world where infected travelers can so easily turn a serious outbreak into a devastating epidemic’.”

In the absence of an effective treatment, the yellow fever vaccine is the only answer. The purpose of the vaccine is two-folds, one to prevent the international spread of the disease by protecting countries from the risk of importing or spreading the virus and the other to protect the individual traveler. The global supply of yellow fever vaccine is around 5-7 million doses, with annual capacity of about 80 million doses.

Sir Michael concluded: “We must be ready to respond rapidly if the current outbreaks spread to heavily populated areas. This means ensuring that the global stockpile of vaccine is sufficient to meet any sudden emergency requirements. It is encouraging that the WHO has held an emergency meeting to consider its response, looking at the rapid review of vaccine sparing strategies to extend vaccine supplies and we hope that this will lead to greater surveillance and encouraging mass immunization where necessary.”

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