Angola rushes to avert worst yellow fever outbreak in decades


Angola in the midst of worst yellow fever outbreak in decades. Photo/REUTERS
Angola in the midst of worst yellow fever outbreak in decades. Photo/REUTERS

The Angolan government is rushing to halt the country’s worst yellow fever outbreak in 30 years as death toll continues to rise.

Since the first case of yellow fever was confirmed in late December of 2015, the epidemic has killed at least 250 people and continued to spread, mostly in the capital Luanda, government officials said last week.

The government has launched a vaccination campaign, with medical workers administering the vaccine to thousands of people every day. The target is to cover around 7 million people, or more than 80 percent of the entire population in Luanda Province.

“I’m afraid of the virus. I had to come here to make sure I don’t get sick, I’ve seen people become very sick from yellow fever,” said a resident in Luanda.

One of the vaccination centers set up by the military has been receiving some 5,500 people a day in the capital city, with priority given to the most vulnerable.

“We have been working with the media to ensure we can get as many people in as possible. We do have many people coming but many are afraid. They suspect that if they get the immunization, they will get yellow fever,” said Dr. Julia Ramos dos Santos, supervisor of the Maianga Vaccination Campaign.

The outbreak has prompted the biggest vaccination drive in Angola’s modern history. When a patient is identified as having the virus, they would be immediately sent to the city’s main hospital.

But authorities fear the confirmed cases of dead and sick are merely a fraction of the true number of casualties.

“The symptoms of yellow fever and those of malaria are very similar, so many times people get misdiagnosed,” said Dr. Ezequias Chipembele at the Arnaldo Janssen Chipembele Hospital.

Just like malaria, the virus is carried by a mosquito named the Aedis Aegypti, the same culprit responsible for the Zika virus.

The low oil price has cut Luanda’s public spending, so rubbish has piled up on the streets in recent months, creating a perfect breeding ground for the mosquitoes.

 

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