Yesterday afternoon, officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued an alert for travelers heading to parts of Brazil. According to the official alert, officials in Brazil’s Ministry of Health have stated that there is an ongoing Yellow Fever outbreak that started in December of 2016. Initially in the Minas Gerais state, cases are now being seen in Sao Paulo and other surrounding areas. It is estimated that over 400 individuals have been infected thus far, with 40 confirmed deaths in humans and possibly 400 deaths in certain species of native monkeys. In an effort to fight back against the spread of this disease, Brazilian authorities are launching a widespread vaccination campaign to help immunize those who are currently unprotected. The CDC recommends that those traveling to effected areas of Brazil get vaccinated against yellow fever, or receive a booster if their last vaccination was over 10 years ago. Currently, there is a shortage of yellow fever vaccine, so getting vaccinated may take longer than usual.
Map of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, initial site of the current yellow fever outbreak. Brazilian officials are beginning to see yellow fever cases in neighboring Sao Paulo (v-brazil.com)
Here are some facts about Yellow Fever to help keep you informed:
The Yellow Fever Virus (YFV) is an RNA virus of the genus Flavivirus – the same family of viruses that includes Dengue and Zika Virus
Yellow Fever is commonly found in South America and Africa
As with many other diseases, yellow fever virus is a vector-borne disease that is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, either the Aedes or Haemagogus The virus can be spread to other humans if a mosquito bites an infected human and transfer virus with it while taking a blood meal.
Most individuals who become infected with yellow fever will experience no symptoms or mild symptoms. For individuals who do experience symptoms, it usually takes between 3-6 days for them to appear after being infected. Common symptoms include:
Nausea / vomiting
General weakness and fatigue
In some cases (15%), the disease takes a severe course and includes symptoms such as high fever, jaundice, bleeding, shock, and possibly, death.
There is no treatment for yellow fever, so hospitalized patients will receive general supportive care until the disease works its way out of the body
How to minimize your risk of contracting yellow fever:
Get vaccinated!! Unlike other diseases in its family, the yellow fever virus vaccine is very effective at inducing immunity and does not require a booster in most cases. If you live in or are traveling to a region where yellow fever has been known to transmit, getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to remain safe
Use mosquito repellent – repellents containing DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus have been proven to work the best
Wear appropriate clothing – long sleeve tops and long pants are most effective at minimizing the amount of exposed skin that a mosquito could bite
Avoid going outside at dusk and dawn – mosquitoes are most active during these times, so avoiding them will help minimize your risk of being bit
The Aedes mosquito, one of the species of mosquito that is involved in the transmission of yellow fever (bbc.com)
When thinking about what to write this week, I was torn with what to write about. One of my classmates suggested that I write about Chikungunya, as she knows it affects many Caribbean countries. Looking into Chikungunya, I also see that this disease ties in nicely with the diseases I have already blogged about because, similar to Zika, it is transmissible via mosquitos. Below, I will talk about some of the major facts about Chikungunya, and describe how it is affecting the world today…
Chikungunya is a viral disease that was first noticed in Tanzania in 1952. When the first cases came in, this disease got its name based on one of the major symptoms that it causes. In the Kimakonde language, Chikungunya is derived from a word that means “to become distorted,” referring to the appearance of many patients.
Chikungunya is transmitted by mosquitos, primarily the Aedes aeqypti and Aedes albopictus Interestingly, these two species are also famous for transmitting other mosquito-based diseases, such as Dengue and Zika. Once bitten by an infected mosquito, Chikungunya symptoms can set in within 4-8 days.
The major symptoms of Chikungunya include a sudden fever with severe joint pain. In most cases, the joint pain disappears after a few days to a week, but sometimes this pain can last several months or years. Other symptoms include nausea, fatigue, muscle aches, and headaches.
Chikungunya is difficult to diagnose based on symptoms alone, but simple blood tests can quickly and easily confirm the diagnosis.
Unfortunately, there are currently no antiviral drugs to fight Chikungunya. When patients are identified, treatment is usually targeted at relieving symptoms. Fever and joint pain are commonly treated using standard treatments. The virus is usually cleared by the body within a week or two, but sometimes it can remain for longer.
The best way to prevent yourself from contracting Chikungunya if you are traveling to a region with high Chikungunya levels is to take efforts to prevent mosquito bites. Wearing long-sleeve shirts, pants, and mosquito repellents are internationally accepted standards to prevent mosquito bites. In addition, using mosquito nets, or ensuring that mosquito screens are installed in any room you stay in are also effective ways to minimize your contact with mosquitos.
Currently, Chikungunya is afflicting over 60 countries worldwide.
Where Chikungunya transmission is present, as of October 2015 (CDC.gov)
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