The Zika virus might be the mosquito-borne illness everyone is focusing on this summer, but for some it’s not Zika they’re afraid of — it’s yellow fever.
The African country of Angola has experienced a dramatic increase in yellow fever cases in 2016 — 3,137 as of June 15 (847 confirmed), according to a new report from the World Health Organization. Of those infected, 347 have died.
Some cases have also been reported in neighboring countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Namibia, increasing fears that it’ll spread widely in densely populated areas with bad health infrastructures.
Yellow fever is carried by the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and Zika, though it’s much more deadly to the unvaccinated. The symptoms include jaundice (hence the name yellow fever), fever, headaches, muscle pain, vomiting, fatigue and nausea. A percentage of patients experience severe symptoms and die within a few days. Vaccines are effective and lead to immunity within 30 days, but a shortage due to mass outbreaks would be dangerous. The current stockpile of yellow fever vaccines is sitting at 6 million, according to the WHO, but production time is about a year, meaning there could be people who need the vaccination and can’t get it if it continues to spread.
The good news: A smaller dose of the vaccine can increase immunity for a year, giving producers enough time to make more.
The bad news: These countries remain strong breeding grounds for mosquitoes, given that many basic services, including trash collection, are now not a priority because of bad economic conditions.
“This has become a rich and beautiful place for this mosquito to bite, and it’s made worse because it bites during the day,” Dr. Francisco Songane, the representative in Angola for the UN children’s fund, UNICEF, told the BBC, adding that the outbreak is “a major crisis.”
“[The rubbish] is in the streets and people are being exposed every day.”