Final end to Yellow Fever outbreak siege

STAFF REPORTER
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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) declared the end of the yellow fever outbreak this week, following a similar announcement in Angola on 23 December 2016.

This brings to an end the outbreak in both countries after no new confirmed cases were reported for the past six months, the World Health Organisation said.

This is good news for Namibian travellers and those living along the borders since Namibia had been put on high alert watch, after the outbreak in the two countries. It was the worst yellow fever outbreak in 30 years.
However, travellers to and from Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are still required to get yellow fever injections.

“We are able to declare the end of one of the largest and most challenging yellow fever outbreaks in recent years through the strong and coordinated response by national authorities, local health workers and partners,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, commending the unprecedented and immense response to the outbreak.

The outbreak, which was first detected in Angola in December 2015, had caused 965 confirmed cases of yellow fever across the two countries, with thousands more cases suspected.

The first cases in this outbreak were identified on 5 December 2015 in Viana, Luanda Province, Angola. The outbreak spread to the entire country and to neighbouring DRC, where local transmission was established in March 2016.
From the start of the outbreak, Angola reported a total of 4306 suspected cases and 376 deaths, of which 884 cases and 121 deaths were laboratory confirmed.

In this outbreak, DRC has reported 2987 suspected cases, with 81 laboratory confirmed cases and 16 deaths.
More than 30 million people were vaccinated in the two countries in emergency vaccination campaigns. This key part of the response, included mop up and preventative campaigns in hard to reach areas up until the end of the year to ensure vaccine protection for as many people in all areas of risk as possible. This unprecedented response exhausted the global stockpile of yellow fever vaccines several times.

More than 41 000 volunteers and 8000 vaccination teams with more than 56 NGO partners were involved in the mass immunization campaigns. The vaccines used came from a global stockpile co-managed by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), UNICEF and WHO. In the first 6 months of 2016 alone, the partners delivered more than 19 million doses of the vaccine – three times the 6 million doses usually put aside for an outbreak. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance financed a significant portion of the vaccines.

One of the major achievements of the response to this outbreak was the introduction of an innovative dose-sparing strategy using one fifth of a regular dose of the yellow fever vaccine – a technique approved by WHO’s global vaccine expert group to protect as many people as possible from the immediate threat of a major urban outbreak.

WHO supported the Ministry of Health in DRC to vaccinate 10.7 million people in the city of Kinshasa using this dose-sparing strategy as a short-term measure that will provide immunity against yellow fever for at least 12 months and likely longer.

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