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WHO Investigates Yellow Fever Outbreak in Senegal - 2002-10-11

The World Health Organization sent a team to Senegal Friday to investigate an outbreak of yellow fever in an area east of the capital, Dakar. The health agency has received reports that at least two people have died from the fever so far.

The World Health Organization says the yellow fever outbreak is in the town of Touba, some 170 kilometers east of Dakar. About 600,000 people live in Touba, and a spokesman for the health organization, Iain Simpson, said he fears the disease could spread rapidly through the area. "The problem with yellow fever is when it gets into a town and when the mosquitoes that spread it are present in a town, which we believe they are, it can spread very quickly," he said. "So the key to this is to put in place a vaccination program. Yellow fever vaccine is very effective. And if we can make sure we get most of the people in that town vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can - that process has already started - then we can stop this outbreak from spreading."

Yellow fever is a viral disease transmitted between humans by a mosquito. It is often accompanied by fever, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting. After three to four days most patients improve and their symptoms disappear. But in a small number of cases, fever reappears, jaundice develops and bleeding can occur.

Mr. Simpson of the World Health Organization said yellow fever is carried by a mosquito that bites during the day, so using a chemically treated bed-net while sleeping at night will not necessarily help. "The important thing is for people to be cautious about trying to avoid getting bitten during the day," he advised. "That involves wearing long-sleeved shirts and trousers and trying to stay away from areas where there are mosquitoes."

Mr. Simpson said the Senegalese government is trying to clear areas where mosquitoes breed. The World Health Organization, he added, is providing technical advice and vaccines to the Senegalese health authorities to carry out a mass vaccination program.