160m Nigerians at risk of contracting Yellow Fever – WHO

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The World Health Organization WHO has put the number of Nigerians that are at risk of contracting yellow fever to 160 million with a population of around 200 million people. According to the organization this makes up around 25% of all the people at risk of contracting the disease in Africa. A press statement made available to media stated that yellow fever is a virus transmitted by infected mosquitoes.

WHO Nigeria Medical Officer Dr Anne Eudes Jean Baptiste, explains, “yellow fever is dangerous because a small percentage of patients will go through a more toxic phase of the disease. By then they will experience fever, have system failure, mainly in the kidney and liver. They may experience bleeding coming from the mouth, nose and eyes and within 7 to 10 days, half of them will die.” WHO also indicated that Nigeria vaccinated over 45 million people against yellow fever during the COVID-19 pandemic. “New films show the impact of yellow fever outbreaks in Taraba State, and the global efforts to eliminate yellow fever epidemics by 2026. 

“I lost my second child to yellow fever. It was a very traumatising experience for my family and I,” explains Muhammed Awal, a father of five from Taraba State. “We rushed the child to hospital when he started showing symptoms of the disease, and he died two to three days after, because his internal organs had been very damaged.” Muhammed describes his family’s tragedy and efforts to ensure protection for the rest of his children in one of two films commissioned by the Eliminate Yellow Fever Epidemics Strategy or EYE. EYE’s goal is to eliminate yellow fever epidemics by 2026, through a single-shot vaccine that gives lifelong immunity, and aims to protect almost 1 billion people in Africa and the Americas.   

In 2016, deadly outbreaks of yellow fever in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with spread to China, put the African continent on notice for this disease. The EYE Strategy, a partnership between the World Health Organization, UNICEF and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, was set up in response and identified Nigeria as a high-risk country. The statement further disclosed “Home to some of the world’s most densely populated cities, Nigeria is at risk of both urban and sylvatic (jungle) exposure to the disease. Sylvatic exposure is the transmission of yellow fever from mosquitos that have bitten animals and non-human primates. Workers in mining and agriculture are particularly vulnerable to this type of transmission. 

In 2017, there was a resurgence in yellow fever in Nigeria after 15 years. This is due to gaps in detection of the disease rather than lack of transmission of the virus and the cyclical nature of sylvatic transmission. As surveillance and laboratory testing have been strengthened, improved information about the distribution of the disease in humans has become available.” Dr Ifedayo M. O Adetifa, Director General of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, explains, “We have strengthened surveillance considerably. We have reference laboratories in the country that have been strengthened, and are being supported and assessed to make sure they are meeting all the performance parameters in terms of sample collection and referral to our reference labs in Abuja.” 

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