By Gamuchirai Munyawiri
THE Ministry of Health and Child Care says the country is on high alert following the yellow fever outbreak in Angola.
Apparently the yellow fever is already spreading to other parts of Africa.
Yellow Fever is an infectious vector disease transmitted by the Aedes Egypti mosquito, the same mosquito that spreads the Zika virus.
This type of mosquito is found in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America.
Angola has been struggling with the outbreak since December 2015 and 250 deaths have been reported to date, with countless suspected cases.
Most affected places in Angola are Luanda and the provinces of Huambo and Huila.
This is the first time a Southern African country has had such an outbreak in decades.
Yellow fever has been spread to China, Kenya and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC ) by people travelling from Angola.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that Uganda, DRC and Angola have active yellow fever.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, has embarked on strengthening surveillance systems at all ports of entry so that people entering the country from affected countries can be screened.
“Yellow fever is right next door,” said Dr David Parirenyatwa, the Minister of Health and Child Care.
“We need to be firm and ensure that we screen all those travelling from Angola and vaccinate all those travelling to Angola 10 days before travel.”
Truck drivers and cross-border traders are said to be the major carriers of yellow fever.
Infection by the Aedes Egypti mosquito results in severe liver bleeding which eventually leads to death.
Transmission is primarily through a bite by an infected mosquito or haemagogus species mosquito.
Infected parties are ‘viremic’, which means they are infectious to mosquitoes and because of that, once infected with yellow fever, one should be quarantined to break the cycle of transmission and reduce risk to persons around them.
Yellow fever has three transmission cycles and these are:
l Jungle (sylvatic) — transmission between non-human primates like monkeys and mosquito species found in the forest. The virus is then transmitted by mosquitoes from monkeys to humans.
l Intermediate (Savannah) — transmission from mosquitoes to humans living in jungle boarder areas (monkey to human/human to human via mosquito)
l Urban — transmission of the virus between humans and urban mosquitoes that is Aedes Egypti. The virus is brought to urban settings by a viremic human infected in the jungle.
Yellow fever is symptomised by a mild illness or no symptoms at all.
If one develops symptoms of the illness, he/she ought to be incubated for three-to-six days.
Initial symptoms include fever, chill, severe headaches, general body aches, nausea and vomiting, fatigue and weakness.
Severe symptoms will be indicated by a high fever, jaundice, bleeding and eventually shock and failure of multiple organs
Vaccination for yellow fever in Zimbabwe is being given to people travelling to Angola 10 days prior to the journey.
Vaccination is recommended for children aged nine months and above travelling to areas that are at risk of yellow fever.
Countries like South Africa are advising travellers to produce International Yellow Fever certificates before entering their territories.
Many other countries throughout the world require vaccinations before entering them and among these are Egypt, Botswana, Cote d’Ivore, Burundi and Cameroon.
Yellow fever vaccine centres in Zimbabwe charge US$50.
Sadly some people buy certificates from illegal selling points and this puts them at risk of infection when they travel.
If vaccinated, one may develop side-effects from the vaccine which include mild headaches, myalgia and asthenia as well as low grade fever.
The general public is always encouraged to immediately seek medical attention if they suffer any side-effects.
However, it is most likely that the side-effects will disappear as the body gets used to the vaccine.
There is no specific treatment for yellow fever, so affected people should be attended to by administering bed rest, giving fluids and also using pain relievers and other medications to reduce fever.
Extra care must be taken to prevent medication that increases bleeding and inflammation like ibuprofen and naproxen.
Yellow fever can be prevented by using insect repellent, wearing protective clothing and getting vaccinated.
Protective clothing helps prevent mosquito bites and this clothing can also be sprayed with repellent for effectiveness.
People should be more aware of peak mosquito hours that are between dusk and dawn although the Aedes Egypti feeds during day time too.
After being affected, those who recover from yellow fever generally have lasting immunity against subsequent infection.
If infection was mild at the time of illness and one recovers, one may be affected with fatigue that may last several months after treatment.