By: Wendy Kakie Ocansey
The yellow fever virus is transmitted by infected mosquitoes, especially from the Aedes species which also spreads the Zika virus –a most recent scare affecting babies. Mosquitoes become infected when they bite an infected human or monkey.
Yellow fever occurs in 47 countries in Africa and Central and South America. About 90% of cases are reported every year in Sub-Saharan Africa. The disease spreads easily if the country has the mosquito species able to transit it, specific climatic conditions and Ghana fits in this category with recent cases in the Brong- Ahafo and Volta regions. That is the main reason why the need to prompt and educate more people on it, is very essential.
Mosquitoes breed in tropical rainforests, humid and semi-humid environments, as well as around water bodies or stagnant water close to human settlements. Epidemics can occur if there is increased contact between humans and infected mosquitoes.
The fever stays in the body for 3 to 6 days. It occurs in two phases. The first stage usually causes fever, muscle pain with backache, headache shivers, and loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. Most patients improve within 3 to 4 days. However, some people tend to have a more toxic phase within 24 hours of contact. They will experience high fever, jaundice and abdominal pain with vomiting and kidney malfunction. Bleeding can occur from the mouth, nose, eyes or stomach with blood appearing in vomit and faeces. Half of the patients die within 10 to 14 days and the rest recover with no serious organ damage
There is no specific treatment for yellow fever but good supportive treatment of symptoms like dehydration improves survival rates. Antibiotics also help in treating it.
Vaccination is the best prevention which protects one for a lifetime. Mosquito control like spraying insecticides at sites with mosquito and its larvae, weeding bushy and muddy areas, environmental cleaning regularly by community members, sleeping under treated mosquito nets, etc. is required for minimal impact to keep each person’s family safe.
However side effects of vaccines are generally mild with headaches and muscle pain. There have been rare reports of serious side-effects.
Eradication of the fever is not feasible since we are unable to control the virus in the natural hosts.
The most significant way to protect ourselves is through widespread immunization with the safe vaccine that gives lifelong immunity from a single dose. In order to prevent importation of the disease, our countries must require proof of vaccination before a visa is issued especially travellers who have just visited yellow fever prone areas to safeguard ourselves and the future generation.
Nights out are very interesting and fun but do not forget to wear trousers with a long sleeved top because the mosquitoes are ready to bite, suck blood and infect, which will not only give you malaria but yellow fever as well if one was not vaccinated.
NB: The disease cannot be spread from person to person.