The World Health Organization just published the top 10 public health concerns of 2007. Of them, one was the eradication of yellow fever. Although not everyone infected get the worst symptoms of the “toxic phase”, those who do may get jaundice (yellowing of the skin), which gives the virus its name. It is currently of concern because it is a re-emerging epidemic, that is it has been increasingly on the rise since the 1980’s.
Pathology: Yellow fever is a live virus transmitted from mosquitoes to humans. Some can be infected and never show symptoms. The virus typically incubates for 3-6 days. Of everyone who is infected, 15% will enter a “toxic” phase after the initial incubation period. Of these, 50% will die.
Symptoms: Some infected with the virus will remain completely asymptomatic. Of those who do show symptoms, the following may be present:
- high fever
- muscle aches
- red eyes, face, tongue
- bleeding out of the ears, eyes, mouth, and nose
- kidney failure
- liver failure
Treatment:There is currently no treatment for this virus. Those affected should treat the fever and any possible bacteria infection in conjunction, but there is nothing to treat the virus itself.
Epidemiology: 33 countries with a combined population of 508 million people in Africa are vulnerable. It is also prevalent in nine South American countries and the Caribbean. Of these, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru are at the greatest risk.
Morbidity (# affected): At least 200,000 a year
Mortality (# of deaths): 30,000 deaths are reported annually, but the WHO believes this is greatly underreported.
Public Health Concern: The incidences of this disease has been on the rise despite the existence of a highly effective vaccine. The immunization prevents the virus in over 95% of those administered. However, to prevent an epidemic a minimum of 80% of the population must be immunized, something most of the affected areas have failed to accomplish.
What you can do to help: The Yellow Fever Initiative was designed by the WHO and UNICEF to create immunization programs for children at the 12 highest-risk countries. Donating to either of these organizations can allow more immunizations to be purchased.
For More Information: