MSF working at yellow fever outbreak in Guinea

A total of ten MSF teams in collaboration with the Guinean Ministry of Health and Hopital Sans Frontieres (no connection to MSF) are working against an outbreak of yellow fever in Guinea, Africa. The first cases were identified seven weeks ago. By November 24, there have been 237 confirmed cases with a total of 101 deaths. The operation has been hampered by a temporary lack of yellow fever vaccines on the market and MSF is trying to get another 500,000 doses of the vaccine in addition to the 500,000 doses already in the field. Treatment of the epidemic first focused in the Mamou region, about 200km east of the capital, Conakry, and approximately 30km north of the border with Sierra Leone. The outbreak is coinciding with changing populations in the region, following armed incursions in the Forecariah region since September. Other yellow fever outbreaks occurred in neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone earlier this year. Additional cases in Guinea from this outbreak have been diagnosed in the regions of Labe, Koubia and Mali, all located further north than the city of Mamou. Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne viral infection. It has a particularly high death rate at the outset of an epidemic, killing as many as 80% of infected people. MSF has been active with the recent outbreak since the start of November, assessing the situation and determining the most effective path for the organisation for both treatment and containment. A vaccination campaign started on November 15 and, as of November 24, a total of 140,000 people have been vaccinated. This is approximately 1,000 people per day. The initial strategy was to provide vaccinations for the Mamou region in Guinea. Now with a clearer identification of the regions and districts affected by the outbreak, MSF is targeting zones where there have been additional confirmed yellow fever cases, with particular focus on Labe. In the initial stages of the Mamou outbreak, the death rate reached 75% in the first stages. However treatment and faster identification of cases has brought a substantial decline. Since medical involvement, the fatality rate has fallen to approximately 40%. The fatality level has fallen considerably following sensibilisation campaigns in the media and with the Ministry of Health allowing for earlier recognition and referral of potential yellow fever cases.