WHO Launches Emergency Yellow Fever Vaccination

A yellow fever patient is treated in Angola
A yellow fever patient is treated in AngolaDalia Lourenco / WHO

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By Maggie Fox

The World Health Organization said Thursday it will launch emergency yellow fever vaccination campaigns along the border between Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Congolese capital Kinshasa to try to stop a growing epidemic of the virus.

The worst yellow fever outbreak in decades has killed 345 people in Angola and another 75 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, WHO says.

WHO has been vaccinating people in Kinshasha against yellow feverE. Kabambe / WHO

Officials have been trying to vaccinate people against the mosquito-borne virus but the vaccine's run out.

Related: Yellow Fever Death Toll Passes 400 in Africa

The 6 million dose global stockpile of yellow fever vaccine has been drained twice this year already. Yellow fever's circulating in Angola, Uganda, Congo,Brazil, Chad, Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana and Peru.

“While WHO is working with partners and vaccine manufacturers to increase vaccine production and replenish the emergency stockpile currently being used for this outbreak, it is vital to interrupt transmission, especially in cross-border areas to rapidly bring this outbreak under control and halt further international spread,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's regional director for Africa.

The agency has also agreed in principle to dilute the vaccine if necessary.

WHO has not decided to declare an international emergency yet but Kinshasha, a muggy city with 12 million people and little health infrastructure, is a worry. The Aedes mosquitoes that carry yellow fever, Zika, dengue and related viruses thrive in densely populated areas.

Reuters contributed to this story