Week 6 Activity: Yellow Fever in Angola

In January of 2016, the World Health Organization began reporting a dramatic increase in the cases of yellow fever occurring in Angola. When the article was published in April, there were more than 250 deaths and over 2000 suspected cases. While yellow fever is not new to our world, this is the most recent outbreak in more than a century.  Efforts to vaccinate the populations have been effective but there is growing concern of a possible supply shortage of the vaccine, especially if the virus begins to spread to other countries. Unfortunately there is no antivirus or immune treatment to counteract yellow fever which is estimated to result in 30,000 deaths every year in Africa alone.

Currently the World Health Organization is leading the charge and is working on providing mass vaccinations, surveillance, and coordinating rapid responses to localized outbreaks. They are also coordinating efforts with the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and other organizations to provide care.

Oddly enough, the vaccine offers lifetime immunity with one dose yet the disease is still spreading. This is the problem that was examined by Dr. Alan D.T. Barrett. He found that one of the primary problems stems from the limited manufacturing capabilities; so far only 6 companies are allowed by the WHO to produce the vaccine. It has been produced the same way using chicken eggs since the 1940s, though modern technology can produce it more efficiently where applicable. Another issue he uncovered has to do with the dosing. The necessary amounts to stimulate an immune system response are rather low, yet in some cases manufacturers were using 1000 times the recommended dose. Therefor it could be feasible to simply reduce the amount per dose and have more doses.

Alan D.T. Barrett, “Yellow Fever in Angola and Beyond — The Problem of Vaccine Supply and Demand” New England Journal of Medicine 375 2016 301-303 Accessed 8/12/2016 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1606997

2 thoughts on “Week 6 Activity: Yellow Fever in Angola

  1. After reading your article, it sounds like the healthcare professionals mentioned are using an applied approach to attempt to control the outbreak of yellow fever. There also appears to be a biological approach taken when addressing production and dosage of the vaccine. As the article mentions, even though thousands of people have been inoculated, there are still cases appearing as far away as China. The addition of an anthropologist knowledgeable of the travel customs from the part of the world where the outbreak originated could assist other medical professionals by working with epidemiologists and the government to quickly identify travel routes of people in and out of the area. This could allow doctors to quickly get ahead of the virus by inoculating surrounding areas with high travel volumes to quickly stop the spread of the disease. As you mentioned another problem being dealt with is the possible shortage of the vaccine. Using the biological approach, an anthropologist would suggest producing vaccines with updated cell culture technologies and redefining the correct concentration of the vaccine. You mentioned that the current concentration can be up to a thousand times more than is required to elicit a response from the immune system. By simply reworking the concentration needed in each vaccine, a shortage could easily be avoided.

  2. After reading your article, one can take a couple different sides as to which approach can and has been taken. At one point, medical professionals must take an applied approach, as they must control, contain, and diminish the amount of cases, as well as, treating those who have been affected by this illness. Aside from this, professionals must as take other approaches, mainly a biological approach as they must understand how, when, and what propped doses can treat this illness. They must understand how the illness works. In doing so, they can target and eliminate it in its destructive path. However, as the article you added can be referenced, understanding the medical components of this illness as well as the human body is so important. Dosing someone over 1,000 the reccomended amount is hardly feasible to do especially with the history of this disease. By calculating the proper amount for a large number of people, the reduction can benefit those who were unable to have the vaccine. In doing so, we can greatly reduce the number of deaths in Africa from 30,000 to a much lower number. Manufacturers must be smarter with the amount and be able to spread it equally to those who would be affected. By understanding the human body and how this illness works, the numbers can easily be reduced. It just needs to be done. And it must be done by medical professionals that understand the anthropogolical approach of looking at health. They must approach it from different sides and from different medical professionals in order to find the best fit to combat diseases.

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