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:
- Sudden fever
- Severe headache
- Body aches
- 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)
For more information, please visit:
CDC Yellow Fever Information
CDC February 1, 2017 Travel Alert
CDC Guidelines for Proper Mosquito Repellent Use
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, commonly referred to as MERS has been circulating the world lately. Before the Zika Virus outbreak in Brazil and the Ebola crisis in Africa, MERS received a lot of attention from the media because it is a relatively new disease in humans. The first human cases of MERS were seen in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. Since that time, MERS has been seen in many countries around the world. MERS is currently circulating in the Arabian Peninsula and parts of the Republic of Korea. Since 2012, there have only been 2 cases confirmed in the US, both of which originated in travelers who had traveled to a region which had a MERS outbreak.
MERS is caused by the MERS Coronavirus, known as MERS-CoV. It is believed that MERS-CoV originated in bats, but it is commonly found in camels. MERS transmits from animals to humans easily, but human to human transmission is not easily seen. MERS is fatal in many cases, especially in countries where the healthcare system is not very adequate. There is currently no vaccine to protect humans from contracting MERS, and there are no definitive treatments. To add to the difficulty in combating MERS, there are no clear diagnostic tests to allow doctors to accurately diagnose the disease in its early stages.
For More Information:
As I described in my last post, the World Health Organization has declared that the Ebola crisis has ended. I figured now would be a great time to describe a brief history of the Ebola Virus and what the scientific community is doing to protect us from the next outbreak.
- The first reported cases of Ebola in humans occurred in 1976 in a remote village near the Ebola River in Zaire.
- Bats are the natural animal-host of the Ebola virus, and are able to carry the virus without getting sick.
- There are five versions of the Ebola virus in the wild, four of which can infect and sicken humans.
- Prior to the most recent outbreak beginning in 2014, the previous largest outbreak sickened 425 people and killed 225 people. The most recent outbreak sickened over 28,000 people, and killed over 11,000.
- Ebola is spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids or medical supplies used to treat Ebola patients. There is some evidence that Ebola can also be transmitted sexually through semen, though this link is not yet solidified.
- There are no treatments for Ebola, and patients who are diagnosed with Ebola are given supportive therapy to keep them alive, and allow their immune system to fight against the virus.
- There are no approved vaccines for Ebola, but two trial vaccines were examined during the most recent outbreak and look promising.
- If an individual has survived an Ebola infection, they are estimated to have antibodies for at least 10 years, protecting them from future infections of the same strain of Ebola.
Map detailing the sources of Ebola outbreaks, from 1976 to present (CDC.gov)
The Ebola Virus, as viewed under a microscope (CDC.gov)
While the Zika outbreak has captured much of the attention of the news, there is some important news that just released on the Ebola outbreak that occurred last year. On February 19, 2016, a major change occurred in the United States’ response to the Ebola crisis. The Department of Homeland Security decided to end its enhanced screening procedures for those who were arriving in the United States from countries in Africa that experienced the Ebola epidemic. The screenings included temperature checks at five of the major international airports in the country, including JFK, Newark, Dulles, Chicago, and Atlanta. This decision was made after the World Health Organization declared that the Ebola outbreak was over. It has been more than 42 days since the last known Ebola patient recovered, marking a period twice as long as the incubation period of the disease.
For now, it looks like the Ebola crisis has ended. In my next post, I will discuss where Ebola came from, and what we are doing to prevent an outbreak like this from occurring again in the future.