The largest Yellow Fever epidemic in decades is hitting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola, and could soon spread to the Americas, Asia and Europe, Save the Children warns.
The organization’s rapid response Emergency Health Unit (EHU) has deployed to support the DRC’s Ministry of Health with a mass vaccination campaign in the capital city of Kinshasa. The campaign, which begins Wednesday, is part of a last line of defense to stop the deadly virus spreading through the overcrowded city of more than 10 million.
The virus is a hemorrhagic fever and has claimed nearly 500 lives to date, with thousands of suspected cases. Alarmingly, the World Health Organization warns those figures could actually be 10 to 50 times higher. Yellow Fever is spread by mosquitoes, making rapid transmission in a hot, humid city like Kinshasa very likely, particularly when the rainy season starts next month and mosquito numbers spike.
The outbreak is the largest to hit the region for 30 years and has all but emptied global emergency stocks of vaccines. There are only 7 million emergency vaccines available for this campaign – too few to fully cover Kinshasa, let alone all of the DRC.
“There is no known cure for Yellow Fever and it could go global,” said Heather Kerr, Save the Children’s Country Director for the DRC. “The mass vaccination campaign in Kinshasa needs to take place now so that we can try and stop Yellow Fever from spreading by land and air to more cities in Africa, and across the world.”