Yellow fever Alert: What to know to protect yourself

Yellow Fever

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Kenya is on high Yellow Fever alert, following the death of a 31 year old Kenyan man who was being treated for the virus.

Health Cabinet Secretary Dr. Cleophas Mailu said that the country had increased surveillance at all points of entry leading to 2,718 passengers being screened for the disease at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) alone, since March 11. The surveillance also saw six travelers denied entry because they did not have valid Yellow Fever certificates.

Yellow fever is a serious viral disease transmitted primarily by mosquitoes and leads to serious illness and even death. In severe infections, the victim’s skin turns yellow (jaundice) hence its name. It’s common in Africa and South America.

Key facts about yellow fever

Yellow Fever Virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Once contacted, it incubates in the body for three to six days followed by illness whose symptoms include fever, muscle pain with prominent backache, shivers, loss of appetite and nausea or vomiting. In severe cases, patients develop jaundice and bleeding.

  • It is an acute viral disease transmitted by mosquito bites
  • Up to half of the severely infected persons will die if not treated.
  • Globally, 84 000 to 170 000 people get infected and up to 60 000 deaths due to yellow fever per year.
  • The virus is common in tropical areas of Africa and Latin America, with a combined population of over 900 million people.
  • The number of yellow fever cases has been decreasing over the past 10 years since the launch of Yellow Fever Initiative in 2006.
  • There is no specific treatment for yellow fever. Treatment is symptomatic, aimed at reducing the symptoms for the comfort of the patient.
  • Vaccination is the most important preventive measure against yellow fever.

Signs and symptoms

Following infection, the virus stays in the body for 3 to 6 days, before symptoms develop. The first phase usually causes fever, muscle pain with prominent backache, headache, shivers, loss of appetite, and nausea or vomiting. Most patients improve and their symptoms disappear after 3 to 4 days.

However, about 15% of the infected progress to more toxic phase within 24 hours of the initial remission. High fever returns with Rapid development of jaundice (yellow coloration of eyes, skin ). Abdominal pain with vomiting.  Bleeding can occur from the mouth, nose, eyes or stomach with blood appearance in the vomit and stool. Kidney function deteriorates. Note Half of the patients who enter the toxic phase die within 10 to 14 days, the rest recover without significant organ damage.

Diagnosis Yellow fever is difficult to diagnose, especially during the early stages. It can be confused with severe malaria or viral hepatitis. Blood tests can detect yellow fever antibodies produced in response to the infection.

There is no specific treatment for yellow fever, only supportive care to manage dehydration, respiratory failure, and fever. Associated bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics. Supportive care may improve outcomes for seriously ill patients.

Prevention of Yellow Fever

a) Get Vaccinated if Recommended Includes those traveling to affected areas, since non-native people tend to suffer more severe illness when infected. Protection begins by the 10th day after vaccine administration in 95% of people, and lasts for at least 10 years. About 81% of people are still immune after 30 years.

b) Avoid Mosquito Bites by use of treated mosquito nets and insect repellents. Also wear proper clothing to reduce mosquito bites.

Dr. Mailu added that the Ministry was working towards ensuring that the virus was contained urging County governments to ensure set up isolation units.

“We wish to request all Kenyans to remain vigilant and to report any suspect cases to the nearest health facility for immediate verification and investigation. For more information or inquiries, please call the Disease Surveillance Unit on 0729 471414 or 0732 353535,” he said.

This message is circulated courtesy of Resolution insurance.

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