Newspaper article International New York Times

Yellow Fever in Africa Is a Serious Issue, W.H.O. Says ; Agency Urges Sharp Rise in Vaccination but Doesn't Declare Global Emergency

Newspaper article International New York Times

Yellow Fever in Africa Is a Serious Issue, W.H.O. Says ; Agency Urges Sharp Rise in Vaccination but Doesn't Declare Global Emergency

Article excerpt

The agency stopped short of declaring a global health emergency but suggested drastically expanding vaccination programs.

An emergency advisory committee to the World Health Organization has called the spread of yellow fever in Africa a serious concern and advocated drastically expanding vaccinations to combat it.

But the agency stopped short on Thursday of declaring a global health emergency, because a fast-moving outbreak that began in Angola in December appears to be coming under control.

"The committee was of the opinion that we have a serious issue on our hands," said Dr. Oyewale Tomori, a Nigerian yellow fever expert who heads the advisory panel, "but it does not constitute a public health emergency of international concern."

The Angolan outbreak spread to three other countries, including China, and has claimed about 300 lives. In April, the W.H.O. warned that its emergency stock of yellow fever vaccine was close to exhaustion. Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the W.H.O., flew to Angola that month to draw attention to the crisis.

But increased manufacturing capacity by the four companies making the vaccine and diversion of doses away from routine vaccination to Africa has brought the stockpile back to its normal level of six million doses, which could triple within a few months, said Dr. Bruce Aylward, the agency's executive director for outbreaks and health emergencies.

The vaccine costs the W.H.O. about $1 a dose, and one shot usually gives lifetime protection, Dr. Tomori said.

The outbreak began in Luanda, Angola's capital, rose to over 2,400 suspect cases and then spread to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya, and to China, where there were 11 cases among expatriate workers.

Urban outbreaks are considered the most dangerous, and a second one had appeared to be erupting in Kinshasa, Congo's capital. But that country has a history of yellow fever vaccination, and the spread was relatively slow, Dr. Aylward said.

In China, there have been no more cases in a month, and all workers traveling to or from Africa are now vaccinated, he said. Many Chinese workers are in Africa building roads and bridges, or employed in oil fields and other industries. …

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