A yellow fever outbreak in Darfur could lead to a major health catastrophe throughout the Sudan. 107 people have died from yellow fever so far in Darfur. There are signs that the disease could be spreading past the embattled region as one case has been confirmed in the city of Kharthoum.
The spread is not likely to be stopped anytime soon because vaccinations are still a month away. There is a shortage of the vaccine currently. That shortage is affecting the speed of getting the drugs to Sudan. Officials say it could be another two weeks before the vaccine arrives and another week before they can begin administering the drug.
For more we turn to Reuters Alert Net writer Katy Migro.
“This is a terribly serious situation,” Paul Reiter, professor of medical entomology at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, told AlertNet. “If things really were to start moving rapidly, we really would not be able to do very much. It all balloons very quickly… We have very little means at our disposal for combating an epidemic in the case of yellow fever.”
Yellow fever is a viral infection that is transmitted by mosquitoes in tropical regions. The majority of patients in Darfur have experienced fever, bleeding and vomiting, according to the WHO.
War has ravaged Darfur since rebels took up arms in 2003, saying the central government had neglected the region. Conflict has continued despite the presence of the world's largest peacekeeping operation, the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), and humanitarian workers have often been attacked.
There is no specific treatment for yellow fever, only supportive care to treat dehydration and fever, and blood transfusion if needed. Vaccination is the main preventative measure.
WHO is waiting for vaccines to be imported from the International Coordinating Group on Yellow Fever Vaccine Provision, which manages the global pool of the vaccine, before it can start a mass vaccination campaign in Darfur.
“Logically speaking, we will be talking about three weeks to a month,” Anshu Banerjee, the WHO representative in Sudan, told AlertNet. “One week for the vaccine to arrive. One week for the vaccine to get to Darfur, then the training.”
Sudan requested 3.6 million doses of the vaccine but is being given only 2.4 million.
There are regular shortages in the global supply of the yellow fever vaccine due to unpredictable demand and its relatively short shelf life.