Yellow fever threatens to make a come back

Yellow fever has been written off in the past as a global threat. Yet the failure to eradicate this disease has left the door open for new, large, outbreaks as vaccination of travellers and tropical populations declines, according to an article in the February issue of Microbiology Today magazine from the Society for General Microbiology.

“Yellow fever virus attracts less public attention than, for instance, lassa and ebola, but it remains the greater threat. Containment through effective mosquito control and vaccination of those at risk, including travellers, remains an important though frequently neglected goal,” explains author Dr Philip Mortimer, of the Central Public Health Laboratory, London.

“Today there are few promises of global eradication, and encroachment on tropical forests in South America and West Africa may actually be increasing the danger when populations are not vaccinated,” says Dr Mortimer.

The 17D vaccine for yellow fever, like other types of live attenuated vaccines, carries a remote risk of reversion to the disease-causing form. Not only, therefore, is vaccine protection not being afforded to all the tropical populations who may need it, but its use is now also being questioned among travellers to the Tropics.

“The scientific means exist to keep the global threat of yellow fever under control, but they carry a large financial and possibly a human cost,” says Dr Mortimer.

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