Darfur yellow fever outbreak is deadliest in decades

A representative of the World Health Organization said on Thursday that the outbreak of mosquito-borne yellow fever in Sudan's Darfur region is the continent's worst outbreak in decades.

Anshu Banerjee, Sudan's WHO representative, said that the outbreak could be classified as the biggest since at least 1990. Since September 2, the country experienced 732 suspected cases in the region and at least 165 deaths, AFP reports.

Banerjee said that routine yellow fever vaccination programs in other countries led to smaller outbreaks. Darfur hadn't held vaccinations for the virus until November.

Ali al-Za'tari, the United Nation's humanitarian coordinator, said that funding was urgently needed to ensure vaccines are given to residents of the region.

"The outbreak is very significant and the spread of the disease shows no signs of stopping," Al-Za'tari said, according to AFP. "The only way to stop its spread is to ensure vaccinations are administered to all people at risk."

The death toll recently surpassed a 2005 yellow fever outbreak in Sudan's South Kordofan state that caused 163 deaths and 604 cases in approximately five months.

While yellow fever typically circulates among monkeys, the outbreak may be more connected to the high breeding rate of mosquitoes after heavy rains and flooding in the area.

Yellow fever has no specific treatment and vaccination is the most important preventive measure, AFP reports.