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By Godfrey Olukya  9-5-2016

Uganda has received 714,579 doses of yellow fever vaccine, worth 643,765 US dollars (over shs 2 billion), for an emergency reactive mass vaccination campaign in the districts of Masaka and Rukungiri in eastern Uganda.

Since January 2016, Uganda has been experiencing a yellow fever outbreak in Masaka and Rukungiri districts, with 30 suspected cases and 11 deaths. The last reported yellow fever outbreak in Uganda was in 2010 that affected five districts in the northern part of the country.

The GAVI Alliance is paying for the vaccines after a request from the Government of Uganda was approved through the International Coordination Group on vaccines. The group comprises of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

The campaign, scheduled to begin in the second week of May, is targeting a population of 698,850 people, aged six months and above, who will be immunized against yellow fever in the two districts where the outbreak has been confirmed.

“The importance of carrying out a massive vaccination campaign is to interrupt the transmission. With this exercise, the affected population will be able to achieve immunity against yellow fever,” said Ms Aida Girma, UNICEF representative in Uganda.

Currently, the Government of Uganda, through the Ministry of Health and its partners, UNICEF, WHO, MSF and Center for Disease Control (CDC), is supporting social mobilization activities, facilitation of health workers, and capacity building of health teams in the affected districts. Social mobilization activities include engaging local leaders and village health teams to conduct interpersonal and door-to-door communication with communities in small groups. Utilization of the local media using radio messages is also on-going.

The overall coordination of the response is being done by the National Task Force chaired by the Director General of Health Services. Dr Jane Ruth Acheng says the general objective of the response plan is to reduce avoidable morbidity and mortality due to the outbreak.

According to WHO, there is no specific treatment for yellow fever. However, WHO recommends that patients should be provided with supportive treatment which includes rehydration therapy for dehydration, analgesics for fever, diazepam for restlessness, and bed nets for preventing the spread of infection.

“Vaccination is the major preventive measure against the disease because it is highly effective,” added Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu, WHO country representative in Uganda.

Yellow fever is a viral infection that is transmitted to humans through a bite from a mosquito carrying the yellow fever virus. It causes fever, yellowing of the eyes, and bleeding from any part of the body. The “yellow” in the name refers to the jaundice (Nkaka) that affects some patients.

Yello fever patients develop yellow eyes, abdominal pain, bleeding from the mouth, nose, eyes and stomach. Most patients fight the infection and the signs and symptoms disappear after three to four days. However, those unable to fight the infection worsen (toxic phase) and many of these eventually die within 10 to 14 days.

The yellow fever virus is spread by mosquitoes which transmit the virus to humans through a bite, leading to the spread of the disease in communities. The infected mosquitoes that spread the disease usually bite people during the day. They breed in open containers around homes, as well as pools of stagnant water and bushes. 

Anyone who is bitten by an infected mosquito can get the disease.

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