GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department within the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA), over the past weeks has been meeting with various stakeholders as it relates to preparatory multi-agency response, and has stepped up surveillance for yellow fever in the wake of an increase in yellow fever reports emanating from several Latin American countries.
CPSs surveillance mechanism was placed on alert for any potential yellow fever cases in January.
Sint Maarten does not have any yellow fever cases, but due to the current situation of yellow fever being detected in areas in countries where no cases have been detected in several years, this has increased the country’s alert level.
The department is requesting for all to be on the alert and be proactive if you experience any symptoms after having travelled to an endemic Yellow Fever area. You are requested to consult your physician.
Yellow fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease that is endemic in tropical areas of Africa and Latin America. Transmission is primarily between monkeys, and from monkeys to humans.
According to the most recent Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) epidemiological update, suspected and confirmed yellow fever cases have been reported in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Suriname.
Reports of disease spreading among animals is currently under investigation in states bordering Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela, represent a risk of spread of the virus to the bordering countries, especially in areas within similar ecosystems.
In Brazil, since the beginning of the outbreak in December 2016 up to 12, April 2017, there were 2,422 cases of yellow fever reported, including 326 deaths. The case fatality rate is 34 per cent among confirmed cases.
PAHO adds that given the current yellow fever situation in Brazil and the emergence of cases in areas where no cases have been detected in several years, Member States are urged to continue efforts to timely detect, confirm, and adequately treat cases of yellow fever within a timely manner. To this end, health care workers should be kept up-to-date and trained to detect and treat cases especially in areas of known virus circulation.
PAHO and the World Health Organization encourage Member States to take the necessary actions to keep travellers, heading to areas where yellow fever vaccination is mandatory, informed and vaccinated.
The virus is transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes aegypti, the same mosquito that can transmit the dengue, chikungunya and zika viruses. Mosquitoes acquire the virus by feeding on infected primates (human or non-human) and then transmit the virus to other primates (human or non-human).
In urban areas e.g. within the communities of Sint Maarten, risk can be reduced by eliminating potential mosquito breeding sites and reducing your exposure to mosquito bites.
There is one sure way of mitigating mosquito borne diseases, and that is removing mosquito breeding sites from within and surrounding your premises, and apply mosquito repellent to stop mosquitoes’ from feeding.
Symptoms of yellow fever according to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) usually appear three to six days after the bite of an infected mosquito. In the initial phase, they include fever, muscle pain, headache, shivers, loss of appetite, and nausea or vomiting.
For most patients, these symptoms disappear after three to four days. Some patients enter a second, more toxic phase within 24 hours of the initial remission.
High fever returns, and several body systems are affected, including the kidneys. Half of patients who enter this toxic phase die within 10 to 14 days, while the rest recover without significant organ damage.
Vaccination is the most important preventive measure against yellow fever.
The vaccine is safe, affordable and highly effective, providing effective immunity within 30 days for 99% of those vaccinated.
A single dose of yellow fever vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained immunity and life-long protection, with no need for a booster. The yellow fever vaccine must be administered at least 10 days prior to travel. Persons that travel to endemic countries where yellow fever is confirmed should get the vaccine.
Travelers with contraindications for yellow fever vaccine (e.g. children below 9 months, pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with severe hypersensitivity to egg antigens, and severe immunodeficiency or over 60 years of age) should consult their health professional for further advice about the yellow fever vaccine.