Over 160 million people – more than half of the country’s current estimated population – are at risk of yellow fever in Nigeria, reports by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa Region have recently highlighted. Lately, the yellow fever virus has become of serious global health concern more because the wakes of its historic outbreaks are trailed by devastating outcomes.
The WHO says the virus is spreading rapidly across Africa, warning that the rising trend could cause an epidemic in Nigeria particularly, mainly because of its large population. Consequently, it issued an advisory for travelers to and out of Nigeria to consult their healthcare provider on precautionary measures required against the virus if need be.
The yellow fever virus is endemic in tropical areas of Africa and, Central and South America. The disease is a potentially fatal disease, as half of its patients in the toxic phase die within 7 to 10 days.
The demography of Nigeria is one of the most important and common reason why the fever could spike in the country. Nigeria is one of the countries most vulnerable to the yellow fever virus according to the region’s WHO, and has a history of poor health infrastructure. Additionally, the Nigerian population is largely uninformed about health and hygiene precautions, which makes them particularly susceptible to the virus.
According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the yellow fever epidemic in Nigeria could spike in the coming weeks. This becomes worrisome due to the fact that there is no treatment for the virus. The good news is that for most people, a single dose of yellow fever vaccine gives long-term protection.
Travellers going to areas with an outbreak are usually encouraged to consider taking a booster dose of the vaccine, this recommendation is particularly important to those who have been vaccinated 10 years ago or more from the period of the first shot. In some countries, a booster dose of the vaccine is a requirement for entry.
For health conscious minds who understand the magnitude of such alarm, panicking is a reflex possibility. However, protection and precaution – especially for travellers – have proved time an again to be an effective weapon in curbing epidemics. To effectively achieve this, WHO fact sheet outlines these measures to include avoidance of close contact with people who are sick or even appear so, staying away from mosquito-infested areas, using of mosquito repellent to ward them off, lodging in hotels that have been well-screened and consulting a healthcare professional about specific needs.
While precaution and protection remain key, it is also essential for us to be well acquainted with its symptoms which include fever, chills, headache, muscle pain and back pain. Other symptoms are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness and rash.
Most people with the initial symptoms improve within one week while others will develop a more severe form of the disease which includes symptoms such as high fever, yellow skin (jaundice), bleeding (mouth, nose, eyes, stomach), abdominal ache and organ failure (liver and kidneys).
Though vaccines work and are the only form of treatment available, certain people should not be vaccinated because complications (side effect) could arise due to underlying ailment and or treatment they are undergoing. This includes organ transplant recipients, individuals diagnosed with a malignant tumor, those diagnosed with thymus disorder associated with abnormal immune function, and patients diagnosed with a primary immunodeficiency.
Other categories include individuals using immunosuppressive and immunomodulatory therapies, those allergic to a vaccine or something in the vaccine (like eggs). Symptoms of an allergic reaction include difficulty in breathing, swelling of the face and throat, and hives. If any of the symptoms is experienced after receiving the vaccine, medical attention should be sought, immediately.
To spread, all disease require a medium; be it air, water, insects and so on. The yellow fever virus, being a viral disease, is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito which serves as the vector of the deadly disease. Worthy of note is that direct spread from person to another does not occur.
It is therefore expedient for individuals and businesses in Nigeria to be aware of the yellow fever virus and take the necessary measures to avoid being infected. By following the guidelines of health professionals and organisations, protection of one’s self and those around from this dangerous disease is achievable.
Dr Naima Idris, a Medical Doctor and Initiator of “Girls Talk Series,” writes from Kano and can be reached via ([email protected])