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Americas
Yellow fever crisis for Paraguay
Emergency stockpile "depleted" as nine cases of yellow fever confirmed in Asuncion.
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2008 18:54 GMT
Seventy-five per cent of the one million doses donated by Brazil to Paraguay have been used [AP]
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said there have been nine confirmed cases of yellow fever in the suburbs of Paraguay's capital, Asuncion.
 
The UN health agency said three people have died. Paraguayan authorities have placed the death toll at eight.

Mass vaccinations are currently under way to halt the spread of the disease.
The yellow fever outbreak is Paraguay's first since 1974. The last cases in any Latin American city were in the 1940s in Brazil.
 
The discovery comes as the global supply of vaccines for yellow fever, which kills tens of thousands people each year, is under extreme pressure, a WHO official said.

Mike Ryan, co-ordinator of the WHO's global outbreak alert and response network, said: "At this point, our global emergency stockpile is depleted.

"We are very much on the edge of our ability to supply both emergency campaigns and these preventative mass campaigns.

"It is a rather uncomfortable position for us to be in."

William Perea, the WHO's yellow fever chief, said yellow fever can "spread like a fire in the forest," adding that mosquitoes thrive especially in urban areas with poor hygiene and sanitation.

Perea said many of Latin America's cities have not been exposed to the virus and therefore have not developed any immunity.

In the jungle, where most yellow fever outbreaks occur, people have better defences against the virus.

One million doses

Antonio Barrios, Paraguay's vice public health minister, said: "At any moment more than one million doses will arrive from France.

"Asuncion is not in any danger of infection," he said.

Authorities said they previously received about one million doses donated by Brazil, Peru, Venezuela and other sources.

But Barrios acknowledged that about 75 per cent of those stocks were used up.

The WHO relies upon three pre-qualified manufacturers of yellow fever vaccine: France's Sanofi-Aventis, Senegal's Institut Pasteur, and Bio-Manguinhos in Brazil.

The current global production capacity is 30-35 million doses, Ryan said.

Ryan said it was important for the vaccines, which cost 60 US cents each, to be replenished quickly and maintained at healthy levels.

"We do need to ensure better security in the number of manufacturers we have and the scale of production available," he said.

Yellow fever is named after the jaundice that affects some of those infected with the viral haemorrhagic disease.

The WHO estimates that 200,000 people catch yellow fever each year, and 30,000 die as a result.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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