An outbreak of mosquito-spread yellow fever has caused more than 800 suspected cases of the disease in the Darfur region of Sudan since the beginning of October.
Experts are calling the outbreak, which killed 168 people, the worst worldwide outbreak of yellow fever in 20 years. An emergency vaccination campaign is now underway to stop the disease from spreading to the rest of Sudan, BBC reports.
Other African countries like Cameroon recently reported some cases of yellow fever. Unlike Sudan, most of the other countries reporting cases have the yellow fever vaccine in their childhood immunization schedule.
“There’s been no such vaccine campaign in Sudan for decades,” Anshu Banerjee, the World Health Organization’s representative in Darfur, said, according to BBC. “It’s because of priorities. Sudan recently identified itself as a high-risk country for a yellow fever outbreak and had conditional approval to begin a vaccination campaign. Unfortunately the outbreak hit before this could happen.”
U.K. International Development Secretary Justine Greening said that the U.K. government would contribute approximately $2.9 million toward the vaccination campaign.
“After years of conflict and poverty, the people of Darfur are now facing a major outbreak of one of the world’s deadliest diseases,” Greening said, according to BBC. “British support will protect millions of Sudanese people against yellow fever and stop this regional outbreak from turning into a nationwide epidemic. The international community needs to continue to help the people of Sudan build a more peaceful and stable future.”
Yellow fever causes jaundice, kidney and liver failure and bleeding. A vaccine can prevent infection but there is no treatment for people infected with the disease, BBC reports.