Brazil is having a rough time with infectious disorders. First it was chikungunya, and then it was the Zika virus and now they have a major outbreak of yellow fever.
Over the past 14 days, the government in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais has announced the presence of a large yellow fever outbreak. Since Jan 1, 2017, the infection has already claimed 38 lives and there are already more than 133 suspected cases of yellow fever. These numbers are a gross underestimate because many people have not yet been diagnosed either because of lack of medical facilities or lack of symptoms.
Governor Fernando Pimentel just announced a state of emergency in 152 towns and cities in the south of Brazil. To combat yellow fever, the government has just donated $8 million towards a vaccination program. It is expected that the vaccines will be administered to thousands of people over the coming weeks.
This is not the first time Minas Gerais has encountered a yellow fever outbreak. The last attack occurred nearly 14 years ago in 2002, which resulted in 23 fatalities. Since then several other Brazilian states have had yellow fever outbreaks. In 2008-2009, Rio Grande de Sol had 21 confirmed cases and 9 deaths, while Sao Paulo had 28 cases and 11 deaths.
Yellow fever is a serious infection and while the majority of infected individuals only develop mild flu-like symptoms such as headache, muscle pan and weakness, about 15-20 percent of infected people will develop multiple organ involvement that can present with liver failure, jaundice, bleeding and cerebral edema. Of those who do develop the severe form of yellow fever, mortality rates range from 20-50 percent.
This is not the first time the Brazilian government has dealt with yellow fever. This infection is endemic in many parts of Brazil and from time the viral transmission to humans occurs and people fall sick.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is responsible for the transmission of the yellow fever virus, but getting rid of this mosquito has not been successful. The local government of Minas Gerais has already declared a public health emergency and expanded its healthcare workforce to deal with the infection and start mosquito spraying.
The Aedes aegypti is a hardy insect, which tends to thrive in the rainy season. Since the mosquito has become very resistant to many chemicals, the government is urging people to take precautions against mosquito bites- this means using mosquito nets at night, wearing long sleeved garments and getting rid of stagnant water near the homes.